Hengari bolsters NWR

NWR managing director Zelna Hengari plans to enhance the tourism industry by reaching new heights in the years to come.

29 June 2018 | People

Gabby Tjiroze





Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) managing director Zelna Hengari assumed her duties as acting MD in 2013 and was appointed substantive MD in 2016.

She provides strategic leadership and direction to the company, in terms of the goals and objectives set out in its business plan.

“I see us becoming a key node in tourism and hospitality within southern Africa. Towards this end, we have initiatives such as Holiday Estates to be marketed in Namibia and southern Africa, especially the landlocked countries in the region and the discerning tourists from Angola, South Africa and elsewhere. We also intend to develop KAZA (the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area) as a world-class cross-border tourism product. Even with our partner, Air Namibia, starting to fly to Ghana, there is also no reason why we cannot do a pan-African product where we give a visitor one integrated product that encompasses the history and beauty of Ghana and the wonder and beauty of Namibia,” she said.

She explained the challenges she faced upon taking office.

“I faced the challenge of stabilising the NWR operationally and financially to set it up for sustainability. We stabilised the company and it is now focused on a sustainable growth path.

“As part of the transformation, I had to confront an organisational culture that reproduced an unhealthy situation whereby men were concentrated at the top of the organisational pyramid and women at the bottom of the pyramid.

“From close to zero, women now make up a significant number of resort managers, middle managers and executive team members. In fact, critical functions such as the chief Financial officer and chief human capital officer are now occupied by women. Our challenge is to advance women within NWR decision-making further and to consolidate their equal participation across the company,” said Hengari.

NWR manages camping sites rest camps and lodges across Namibia, mostly in the national parks.

The camps include five places to stay in the Etosha National Park – the Okaukuejo, Halali, Namutoni, Onkoshi and Dolomite camps.

And two places to stay in Sesriem - the gateway to the Namib Desert and Sossusvlei - the Sesriem Campsite and the Sossus Dune Lodge.

“During 2006 to 2009, a three-year turnaround strategy was formulated, aimed at improving the products of the company. That is why I can say that, to some extent, the hardware is now in place and the challenges that we face are software-related such as excellent customer service, adequate maintenance of resorts, operational efficiency and sound corporate governance.

“It is in dealing with these challenges that the company is recording progress and achievements.

“For instance, after the current board of directors took office they immediately set off on a path of ensuring sound corporate governance. They instituted a company-wide performance management system which is tied towards a clear strategic business plan setting sustainable profitability as the key strategic goal of the company.

“Already these efforts are bearing fruits, and the company has won a few national and global awards culminating in me being named the IPM CEO of the Year in 2016,” explained Hengari.

She also shared her proud moments at NWR.

“There are a few things I am proud of, though the one I am most happy with is the introduction of the NamLeisure Card which was crucial in unlocking our domestic tourism.

“More and more Namibians are now enjoying their own country, and that is very good. In addition to that, I am pleased that we started embarking on a source market diversification strategy through which we are doing everything to deepen and preserve our traditional European market, while aggressively pursuing new markets especially North America and China,” she said.

Education background

Hengari holds a Master’s degree in Economic Law which she obtained from the University of Namibia. She also has a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a certificate in paralegal studies from New York University.

Day-to-day activities

A typical day in the office is mostly pre-occupied with responding to stakeholder emails and call requests.

“My day is mostly occupied by replying to emails, both internal and external. I tend to consult my senior executive team to keep abreast with matters that need my attention. I also review strategic documents and when time allows I attend networking events to increase our business further.”

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