Africa-Press – Namibia. PASSIONATE about travelling, the new spokesperson for Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), Nelson Ashipala, says he is happy to be working in an environment that takes cognisance of his passion. Ashipala speaks to The Namibian’s Walter Kariko about the trajectory of his career.
WK: Who is Nelson Ashipala above and beyond the known professional? NA: Nelson Muremi Ashipala is a gentleman who grew up at Rundu, originally from Sikondo village. Being born in Angola during the struggle, so many people played the role of parents in my life, I sometimes wondered who my real folks were. You might say I was raised by a village. Growing up, I was always curious to find out how things work, why they work and how I can stop them from working. This obviously got me into a lot of trouble at home.
I completed school at Elcin Nkurenkuru High School in Kavango West, and went on to study at the University of Namibia. My parents had dreams of me becoming a pilot or something fancy, but I was just not smart enough. WK: What exactly do you do as the new manager of corporate communications at NWR?
NA: I’m responsible for communications, in summary, ensuring streamlined smooth communications between NWR and its stakeholders. My role also entails enhancing the customer experience, brand visibility, as well as reacting to and ensuring minimal customer complaints. NWR does a lot of corporate social responsibility (CSR) undertakings, and I have to ensure this role is carried out with impact. I feel strongly about giving back to society, even in my private capacity. NWR also offers awesome facilities for events, conferences and meetings, I must ensure that good service is delivered on this end as well.
WK: Tell us more about NWR and its mandate? NA: NWR is a public enterprise (PE) that provides tourism and hospitality management services in national parks. It is one of the largest providers of accommodation facilities in the country – managing, controlling, maintaining and utilising in the national interest, the wildlife resort service according to general business principles.
We have taken over the resorts previously run by the Department of Nature Conservation, from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism some 20 plus years ago. Most resorts were already aged at the time of establishing NWR, and we have maintained, and in some instances, even improved on the old infrastructure. It is imperative to our business and our shareholders that these assets are kept in good condition, to not only be utilised in the short term but also in the interest of our future generations.
Recently, NWR also branched into the sphere of training. Namibia’s fifth National Development Plan (NDP 5) identifies the tourism industry as an important contributor to the country’s economic growth. NWR, as the largest state-owned tourism industry player, saw it right to start an NWR Hospitality Institute, which offers vocational education, apprenticeship and training, to equip NWR employees and the public to meet hospitality industry standards. WK: Walk us through your career and past experiences that have shaped you
NA: My career journey started off at the Namibia Statistics Agency. Having started off as an administrative officer, the agency had a smooth eye for discovering talent and skills within its workforce. The statistician general at that time, John Steytler, groomed me into becoming a PR guru by giving me short stints in the agency. Through many training and development courses, I became a chartered practitioner. The rest is history and now, here we are. The formula for PR is, you do not get better with school, you get better with practice. School will teach you less than half of what you will encounter in the world.
WK: What is it like working at NWR? NA: It is fun. Tourism or travelling is my hobby, so I find it awesome that I can come to work to do what I love in an industry that I am passionate about. I just started this month but can’t wait for the challenges to come. WK: What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
NA: For someone who is extremely reserved and an introvert, the only time I get to mingle with people is through my job. I like that a lot, as it forces me to get out of my comfort zone. Secondly, I like working on campaigns and seeing them through. I’m not really into being in the public eye but this job forces me to do so.
WK: NWR is such a household name in Namibia and also big on CSR, how does the company maintain such a reputation and what informs decisions on which projects or individuals to sponsor?
NA: NWR as a brand has taken on a customer-centric approach while maintaining three important brand functions – security, information efficiency and value addition. We get a lot of sponsorship requests, and yes we would like to help everyone but unfortunately, we can’t. Requests need to have an impact and most importantly, be aligned with current challenges and should be able to solve problems within the community.
WK: What are the three top skills one needs for the future? Especially in your sector? NA: Communications, technology and most importantly, research skills. New initiatives such as the Barcelona Principles require one to have research and analytic skills as an assessment tool. The old term of spinning has come to an end. Nowadays, we tell the truth.
WK: How would you encourage young people who want to enter the corporate sector? NA: Equip yourself with the necessary skills and competence, never give up and most importantly, network. Oh, and watch what you say on social media.
WK: From whose well of wisdom do you draw? NA: Winston Churchill saying “never let a good crisis go to waste” is one of my favourites. It gets me through tough times. I don’t really have any mentors, as being a loner, it isn’t easy to open up.
WK: Recommend three good reads. NA: The Bible, ‘1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir’ by Ai Weiwei, and ‘Acts of Desperation’ by Megan Nolan. WK: How do you spend your spare time?
NA: This question is always difficult for me as I am all over the place when it comes to leisure, and an adrenaline junkie too. But most of my time is taken up by travelling this beautiful country, cycling, or doing something fun like surfing – if time permits. Anything that gives me a heart attack, you will see me there.