Watching a dream fall apart

29 April 2020 | Tourism

KENYA KAMBOWE

RUNDU



With the tourism and hospitality industry having been brought to its knees by the coronavirus pandemic, a Rundu lodge owner shares how the pandemic has affected her business.

Elizabeth Hilger and her husband bought Tambuti Lodge from a Swiss couple in 2008.

The lodge is situated on the banks of the Okavango River and offers visitors a beautiful view of the river.

“Looking back to 2008 at how the lodge grew and myself personally up until before the coronavirus came, I was enjoying it. When the coronavirus came, it was like watching your dream falling apart,” Hilger says.

At first she did not think Namibia would be affected by the outbreak.

“Initially when we heard that it was in China, I did not think it would reach Namibia as I thought that we would just close the borders and it would go away.

“When the government announced the first positive cases of coronavirus, that was when reality kicked in. Having learned how the tourism industry in countries where coronavirus cases had been confirmed was affected, I asked myself, will I also close down.”

Hilger says she only realised that things were taking a turn for the worse when tourists started cancelling their bookings.

“First it was only one and two cancellations per week and as time went by it started becoming a daily thing and then it was when I realised that things were getting real.”

Hilger says they are now struggling to pay off their car loan, pay their suppliers and refund customers who had paid in advance.

Hilger explains that the biggest chunk of their income is absorbed by the maintenance of the lodge and with limited income, they are in a difficult situation.

They have not laid off any employees so far. Instead, they divided them into groups who work shorter shifts for reduced pay.

On the plus side, Hilger believes that the present difficulties have made her a more spiritual person.

“What I have learned during this coronavirus pandemic is that one has to surrender. I had to balance myself, otherwise I would have committed suicide,” she says.

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