Onkoshi – Foibe Kapofi is the epitome of sheer determination, hard work and a success story of how a young woman that started at the very bottom rose through the ranks to manage one of the popular resorts in Namibia.
Her success is also testimony that Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) is one of the few great companies that nurture talent and reward hard work. NWR is a state-owned entity that operates tourism facilities within the protected areas in Namibia.
Kapofi first joined the Namutoni Resort as a casual worker in 2004, where she spent close to three years doing housekeeping at the historic resort. Her persistence was rewarded with permanent employment in 2007, as a sales consultant helping out in the finance department.
In November 2015, NWR management transferred her to Onkoshi Resort to prove herself even further as acting manager. Tough it may have been, she managed to prove herself.
“I joined NWR as a casual worker at Namutoni Resort and later in 2007, I became permanent. I had been working at Namutoni at the front office as sales consultants helping out at many departments like finance. In 2015, I was given the opportunity to come to Onkoshi Camp to prove myself acting as manager on a monthly contract basis. I was confirmed in March 2017 as manager, and it took me a year and a few months to prove myself,” Kapofi told The Southern Times during a recent visit to the popular eco-resort.
Kapofi took up the temporary job offer at Namutoni after completing a national diploma in travel and tourism at Monitronics Success College.
“They were looking for people to work as room attendants, then I took the opportunity. It did not really matter what type of job I was taking up, but I decided to do it with dedication and give my all that one day people (management) may recognise what I do.
“That was my motivation, and I was also having this responsibility as a big sister to six siblings being the firstborn. I was not looking for something fancy, as long as I was working and I believed that one day I would prove myself because hard work paves the way to success.”
Meanwhile, Kapofi realised long ago that good customer service is the soul of the travel and hospitality industry. Hence, the provision of quality service to tourists is her daily sermon to her staff at Onkoshi Camp.
“The journey of me starting from the bottom taught me a lot when interacting with many clients. Clients are beautiful people; they are not really difficult people to please, as long as you give them good service. Every little thing you do for them, they will appreciate. Yes; every business is there to make money, but money must not be the motivating factor. You must create memories for your clients, and even when they leave they will have that good memory. They can also tell others about the place. That’s why you meet tourists that come here and say: ‘You see, I was never here but a friend of mine was here last year and he said this and that about you guys’. You may also find the returnees saying: ‘Oh, this is my third or fourth time, I like the place; I like the service. Such comments make you feel proud that you are doing your best in terms of service, you are creating good memories for clients.”
Onkoshi Camp is located in a secluded place on the rim of the world-famous Etosha salt pan in northern Namibia. Visitors to the camp have an unobstructed view of the sunset and the open bright night sky. When the pan fills up during good rainy seasons – a colony of pink flamingos takes centre stage. The 120km salt pan is one of the major tourist attractions in the Etosha National Park, one of the biggest and pristine wildlife sanctuaries in the world.
For Kapofi, the salt pan is what makes the Onkoshi Camp a unique place to visit. “The pan has the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. You have a clear view of the beautiful sunset and the beautiful shining stars during the night. That’s what makes Onkoshi unique. It is also a place where you can come and relax. It is far from all the noise.”
The luxury tented camp was built in 2008 and was designed to blend in with nature on the edge of the expansive salt pan. The 15 chalets that make up the camp are built on elevated wooden decks, canvas walls and thatched rooms including wooden doors. The rooms are craftily partitioned and furnished with a mixture of locally sourced wood and metals to create a natural feel.
Kapofi, with her 24-strong staff, are doing their best to ensure Onkoshi Camp remains a low impact and environmentally friendly facility. They were awarded for their effort with an Eco Awards by the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) in 2016. Onkoshi was awarded three flowers, and Kapofi is determined to win the top awards – five flowers – during the next assessment in two years’ time.
“Even though we did not achieve a 100% score, I think we are getting there. We almost got four flowers, we missed out by two points. Some of the recommendations from HAN were that because we transport water from Namutoni, at least we must keep a record of how many times we transport the water and how much we use per month. This will help us see if we are using the water wisely or not. The other thing was the measurement of waste, like how many drums of waste we produce per month.”
Although Onkoshi Camp was deemed a failed project during the early years, the resort managed to post profits during the 2015/2016 financial year; and Kapofi cannot be happier.
“When I took over, we made big changes in terms of revenue compared to those years. We are now making a profit since it opened for the time profit was made 2015/16. Together with my staff, we’re striving to keep it that way – improving the revenue.”
Before a gravel road was constructed in 2014, visitors to Onkoshi used to be transported from Namutoni to Onkoshi.
“Onkoshi, when it in 2008 was not really an active place, we never received lots of clients. But since the introduction of the gravel road because we used to do a pickup from Namutoni and which I think it was not comfortable for the clients that’s why most of them were really not. You leave your car there and are transported by NWR to the camp. But since the introduction of the gravel road, we are seeing an increase in clients coming. So, the revenue shows positive changes”.
On the downside, the lack of adequate electricity remains the biggest challenge for Onkoshi Camp. Kapofi, however, hopes the resort will soon be electrified by solar to give comfort to the clients. The camp is currently powered by a generator and rooms are not furnished with basic luxuries like electric kettles for clients to boil water.
“My dream is for Onkoshi to be electrified by solar and for every room to have basic amenities, at least for clients to have a little comfort and not go to the restaurant to look for hot water. And this place can be freezing during winter and when it's summer – it gets hot. I want comfort for my clients because some clients travel with their medication that needs cooling. At the moment, they use a common fridge. Lack of reliable power is a big challenge. For now, you have to explain the situation when clients are checking in.”