Now is the time for SAVE tourism: Nghitila

18 Mar 2014 11:10am
WINDHOEK, 18 MAR (NAMPA) - Scientific, Academic, Volunteer and Educational (SAVE) tourism holds great potential for Namibia.
This was the view of the Commissioner of Environmental Affairs, Theo Nghitila during a SAVE workshop in the capital on Monday.
He noted that Namibia hosts a lot of interns from universities across the globe in local schools, hospitals, clinics as well as orphanages.
“The SAVE market is something we have not pursued strongly before. We currently do have quite a bit of SAVE tourism in place, although we do not recognise it as such.
However, it seems that in Namibia, we are just scratching the potential of this segment as we can do more through a co-ordinated, harmonised and focused approach,” he stressed.
The quest for a fulfilling experience has pushed some travellers to make their holidays more meaningful by volunteering for social service at their destinations.
Nghitila noted that this segment in the industry presents significant challenges to immigration in terms of holiday or work visas.
Such shortcomings could, however, be addressed through appropriate policies, legislation or incentives.
At the same occasion, the Director of the International Institute of Tourism Studies at the George Washington University in Washington DC in the United States of America (USA), Dr Kristin Lamoureux said those attracted to SAVE tourism generate new socio-economic opportunities for local communities and organisations with a broader economic impact.
“SAVE can specifically help build local capacity; create jobs through volunteer funds; create huge low or no-cost marketing opportunities; support sectors where professional skills may be developing (for example doctors, teachers, and researchers); and support conservation,” she stressed.
Lamoureux, who is also the president of the SAVE Travel Alliance in Washington DC, noted that travellers enrich their own trips when they seek to contribute to the well-being of the place which they visit.
She made reference to the National Association of Black Scuba Divers in Washington DC, of which 400 members participated in volunteer marine archaeology and worked on a slave shipwreck project in Mozambique. Travellers are also exploring options of working with wild animals in Africa, teaching children in Kenya, teaching English to fishermen in Thailand and more, adding to a new dimension of a “fulfilling holiday”.
Lamoureux further stated that SAVE can target responsible tourism - those travellers interested in natural and cultural heritage preservation - and can improve local livelihoods with minimal environment impact.
At the moment, volunteer tourism is available at Dolam Children’s Home in the Khomas Region; the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in the Otjozondjupa Region; N/a’ankuse in the Omaheke Region; Elephant-Human Relations Aid in Kunene, and the Penduka Women’s Project in Khomas.
Representatives from the tourism industry and tourism students from the Polytechnic of Namibia attended the event, which also focused on understanding the different source markets of volunteer tourism and SAVE tourists and their needs; branding SAVE products; marketing strategies for tour operators and non-governmental organisations (NGOs); and how to cost and price competitive SAVE tourism products.