April 28, 2006

Namibia bets on “Brangelina” tourism boom

By Desiewaar Heita

WINDHOEK (Reuters) - Congratulations Namibia ... it's a
Brangelina baby boom. Namibian officials hope the world media
furor over a visit by pregnant Hollywood star Angelina Jolie
and her partner Brad Pitt will translate into a tourist rush to
the African country, famous chiefly for its huge sand dunes and
vast empty spaces.

"If Angelina Jolie gives birth in Namibia, she would have
done for our tourism sector what our tourism board budget
cannot do in a year," Namibian Ambassador to the United States
Hopelong Iipinge said in a letter released to the media late on

He said the Namibian embassy in Washington had been
"inundated with calls from the media and individuals inquiring
about Namibia," including requests from major media outlets for
video footage of the country's chief attractions.

Jolie and Pitt, dubbed "Brangelina" by the tabloid press
and described along with their adopted children as "the world's
most beautiful family" this week by People magazine, arrived in
Namibia this month amid reports they planned to have their
first baby in the country, far from the Hollywood spotlight.

The baby -- due within weeks -- has ignited a paparazzi
rush to the remote coastal resort where Jolie and Pitt are
staying, prompting Namibia's government to expel several
photographers and slap strict new limits on media access.

The security has been criticized as excessive by Namibia's
main human rights watchdog, but Iipinge said the extra security
made sense.

"It would be an honor for Namibia to become the birthplace
of the Pitts' first biological child," Iipinge said, saying
privacy was one thing the remote African country could offer
the Hollywood pair.

"The publicity we are receiving is because of Angelina and
Brad and not the paparazzi. The paparazzi will not come to
Namibia on their own. They will only do so when following a
celebrity. Angelina and Brad Pitt can boost tourism but the
paparazzi cannot," Iipinge said.

Namibia, a country of deserts and diamonds neighboring
South Africa, boasts one of the lowest population densities in
the world and has not made the menu for many international
travelers despite its good infrastructure, scenic game parks
and harsh arid landscape.

But images of Namibia, including its famous sand dunes,
have hit the world's magazines and television screens thanks to
media managing by Jolie and Pitt, who despite their pleas for
privacy have welcomed a few select reporters to the coastal
lodge where they are staying with their two adopted children.

"Never before have we had so much publicity," Iipinge said.
"Angelina Jolie is not only a movie star, she is also the U.N.
Goodwill Ambassador and this is the combination which makes her
the draw card," he said.