Some local tour operators are up in arms after they were booted off the premises of the Hilton Hotel as a South African car rental company Hertz gets the exclusisve right to operate from there.
The Villager can reliably reveal that outrage sparked as words were exchanged between officials of the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), tourism and gaming industry roleplayers and disgruntled indigenous tour operators.
The indiginious tour operators feel they are not protected enough by the local roleplayers in the tourism sector, which is the third largest contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP),
Affected tour operators expressed discontent at the manner in which they had to be elbowed out at such a time when new airlines, like Qatar Airways, are entering the local market.
“Government pledged to protect entrepreneurs in the country. We are saying that we are happy that new airlines are coming into Namibia but they should benefit us, emerging entrepreneurs. The biggest problem is that an established company that is South African owned is coming in to take this opportunity from us,” said a visibly discontented James David, owner of James Investment CC.
Dawid appealed to NTB to come in and inspect if these non-Namibian car rental companies are fully qualified to operate within the country.
He alleges that most of them do not have relevant authorization that allow them to transport tourists, although he could not provide this publication with proof.
NTB’s head of registration as well as industry services, Bonny Mbidzo, disputed allegations that Hertz is not having adequate documentation of operation scoffing them off as sensational, confirming with this publication that the car rental company is actually registered under VEH00054.
He said the act to boot Namibian tour operators off the premises of the hotel was not malicious as the locals were fighting for territory and tourists within the vicinity of Hilton Hotel until the latter had to call in a professionally run company to save its reputation.
“Emerging Tourism Enterprises Association (ETEA) members who were operating from Hilton were given the opportunity by the hotel management to do so on that private property. However, the operators themselves started fighting for territory and it became a nuance for Hilton as it had the potential for reputational damage. Hilton as a reputable hotel worldwide took a decision to ensure that all its clients will be provided transport by one service provider,” Mbidzo explained
He added: “Secondly, please note that the complainant was wrong in his statement that Hertz was not a registered car rental company in Namibia and I explained this during his question (sic).”
The top management of Hilton Hotel, when reached for comment by The Villager to shed light on the ongoing fight, declined to say anything chosing to remain tightlipped.
Mbidzo, meanwhile, stressed that a lack of proper marketing staregies among the emerging tourism entrepreneurs was making it hard for them to withstand competition.
Heinrich Hafeni of Hafeni Tourism also said although tourism was one of the leading contributors to the economy, the sector was not fully inclusive of local business people.
“In a nutshell, tourism is one of the most sustainable parts of our economy and in Namibia, we have majority of our people who are not a part of this. We must concentrate on the small business and we have to create platform for them and advocate for the fairness of opportunities in the tourism sector,” said Hafeni.
Mbidzo nevertheless stressed that while the tourism sector was open for all Namibians, it was not the mandate of NTB to protect a particular individual within the sector, noting that regulation was their main focus.
“One thing which is very clear is that in 1993, immediately after independence, the tourism sector was opened under the WTO and all the sectors within the tourism sector in Namibia are 100% open, we have no restrictions. We cannot stop anyone from doing any tourism related business as long as you are registered with the regulator. Yet NTB as a regulator does not go out there and protect a certain segment within the sector itself, what we are there for is to regulate fair play under the enabling Act, Act 21 of 2000,” he said.