A private tourism organization last week defended the appointment of a non-Namibian as the country’s first travel ambassador after it sparked a storm on social media.
This came after the Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations (Fenata) awarded this position to the multi-platinum South African artist Lerato Molapo, known as Lira.
Critics immediately turned to social media, accusing Fenata of favoring a foreigner over Namibians.
Some Twitter comments included the following:
“Since my time on Twitter, I’ve seen @UpiUmbiupi display the most amazing patriotism / knowledge and pride in Namibian tourism. She has a decent international presence and will be an amazing ambassador. WE DON’T WANT LIRA. A Namibian should represent us. “
Another user said: “So did you really think it was okay to appoint a foreigner to be the Namibian Tourism Ambassador? We have so many matching Namibians.
Why is it difficult to uplift our own people? Horrified to say the least. “
Another user was upset by Namibia’s apparent dependence on “foreigners”.
“My two cents for that whole lira as a travel ambassador. The only problem I find with this is that it only shows how much the tourism sector is dependent on ‘foreigners’. Your entire model and structure is centered around foreign assistance. .. there are so many other local influencers there that they could have used “the user said.
Afiirmative Repositioning Movement activist Görge Kambala told The Namibian yesterday: “A few weeks ago the Namibia team and the tourism industry launched the Buy Local Namibia initiative to revitalize the local industry. Now we have the same industry that the government has asked to open the borders giving Namibians the middle finger. “
He added that the tourism industry is only responsible for foreigners, saying, “It is pathetic for everyone, including the tourism authority, to allow such hypocrisy.”
The chairman of Fenata, Netumbo Nashandi, justified the move yesterday in a press release with the words: “The use of foreign influencers to develop targeted source markets is not a unique marketing concept.”
Nashandi said the federation’s Travel Ambassador Initiative (TAI) aims to promote Namibia as a travel destination on the African continent “in order to increase demand for and awareness of our beautiful country.”
She said that the association’s innovative strategies include finding alternative means of strengthening, regenerating and strengthening Namibia’s resilience.
This includes exploring cross-marketing platforms in the areas of tourism, nature conservation, art and cultural heritage, complementing traditional marketing methods with marketing tools such as online content-driven digital marketing, and working with Namibian and international influencers to enhance their personal Namibian travel experiences sharing platforms on social media.
“Our new normal demands that we adopt innovative strategies that revitalize the tourism sector and promote employment,” she said.
Nashandi told The Namibian yesterday that Lira will not be paid for her role as ambassador.
The South African artist announced her appointment on Instagram last week.
“I was announced as a Namibian Tourism Ambassador to South Africa and the world as part of Fenata’s travel ambassador initiative,” Lira wrote.
The musician had to spend the embargo for Covid-19 in Namibia and shared her experience on social media.
Romeo Muyunda, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, said yesterday: “Fenata is a private organization and they have the right to appoint whoever they consider appropriate to represent them.”
Andreas Andjene, Chief Trade Promotion Officer at the Namibia Investment Center, said from a marketing perspective that it was “a sensible decision” to use Lira to promote Namibia as a travel destination in South Africa and the rest of the world.
“… Brand managers have strategies for improving a product and service, and influencing brand ambassadors is one of those strategies,” he said.
Andjene said anyone could be used as a brand ambassador “as long as that personality matches the brand mantra of the product, service and audience.”
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“I believe Lira’s brand can do that for Namibian tourism in South Africa in this case,” he said.
Andjene said nationality shouldn’t be a factor as long as goals are met.
He said Fenata represents the private tourism sector and therefore has the right to choose who they want to drive the sector.
He suggested appointing local travel bloggers or celebrities as ambassadors to promote local tourism for the domestic market.
The local travel agency, Sister Kashala, shared Andjenes views yesterday.
“Personally, I can’t get clients from elsewhere unless I work with agents from these other parts [countries]. This is really how the tourism industry works, “she said.
The agent said: “The best way for non-Namibians to know about Namibia is to sell the idea of Namibia, and no one can do that better than a local from that country. Likewise, we need Namibians to do local tourism The best way to do that is with local influencers. “