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NTB draws out knives for disobedient 'Air BnBs'

by Kelvin Chiringa

With the deadline for the registration of all Air BnB operators having closed on the 31st of December 2017, the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) will start hunting down operators who failed to comply in a bid to drag them before the courts.

Speaking to The Villager, head of Industry Services, Bony Mbidzo remarked that the board will rope in the police force as it pursues after these unregistered accommodation businesses operating in the tourism market.

They face being slapped with a fine of N$20 000 for lack of compliance from this directive although Mbidzo had earlier on told this publication that prosecution was not a route NTB wanted to take but would only do so if forced to.

“Registration has been going on and most people came out. Now we are in the process of seeing those listed under Air BnB who are not registered then we start with our operations with the Namibian Police,” he said.

He indicated that there will not be a postponement of the deadline albeit there will be a continuous process of registration for new entrants.

“Other people would want to enlist as a new business so the sector will obviously keep on growing. As the sector grows so will our operations as well intensify,” he said.

Although Mbidzo could not disclose whether government would consider stepping into the new online tourism business formula, he said the concept is highly recommendable. 

“It is a good move because everything is going online just like the booking agents. Nowadays you don’t need to go through a booking agent you can just go online and do your booking either with or any of those. So with this particular initiative, the fact that you’re a home owner, because you have an extra room, you would sell out a bed in one of your extra rooms for extra income.”

“At Namibia Tourism Board we are promoting that, but we are saying as much as we want you to comply, please make sure that your business is registered with NTB,” he said.

NTB racked a total of N$36 million revenue in the form of levy collections amassed from registered accommodation providers but latest figures are yet to be released. 

Said Mbidzo, “We have not received our reports from the chief of finance which I am sure we are going to be receiving at the end of the month because the returns for November/December are due the end of this month. Only then will we be in a position to say how much money has been collected.” 

He reported that tourism bookings for 2018 are still open in spite of last year’s reports that these were almost full.

“What happens is, when you have a hotel or a lodge, we have the tour operators who do block-booking. When these people do a block-booking especially the travelers from Europe, they plan ahead that okay in 2018 I am going to visit Namibia, South Africa and Botswana. Therefore, their stay in Namibia will roughly be five days or ten days.”

“So based on that tentative booking, the hotels would book based on the fact that the tour operator must pay a deposit of either 20% or 50%. That is dependent if anything happens either unrest in Namibia or an outbreak of any sort. But for now surely our beds are fully booked for the year,” he explained. 

 Overall, NTB expressed its satisfaction with the level of compliance from Air BnBs as far as registration directives is concerned.