By: Kelvin Chiringa
The local tourism sector is currently in the midst of a discord as associations are shunning each other at the back of accusations that some are creating havoc for others.
As the sector readies to benefit from an anticipated influx of visitors owing to a global opening up post the pandemic’s climax, the Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations (Fenata) has become the third entity to disown and distance itself from the Namibia Travel and Tourism Forum (NTTF).
Chairperson Netumbo Nashandi has said Fenata recently held a special meeting with its exco members as well as those of the various member associations to realign the organisation internally and to facilitate a united strategy going forward.
At this meeting, Fenata opted to distance itself from NTTF, accusing it of launching “malicious attacks, and slandering established tourism bodies and Fenata as a whole”.
Nashandi said this has a hugely damaging effect, locally and internationally, to the unity and image of Namibian Tourism.
The organisation has thus followed in the foot-steps of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) which accused NTTF of cybercrime a few months ago.
Seemingly to isolate the NTTF, Fenata proceeded to unequivocally declare support for HAN “and any other members that have been unjustifiably criticized and malevolently attacked by NTTF”.
The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) is also said to have distanced itself away from the forum.
An email by its boss, Digu Naobeb reads, “Please take note for the record that the Board, as the highest decision making body, at its meeting of 22 September 2021 resolved that the Namibian Tourism Board (NTB) shall forthwith not work or collaborate with NTTF in any form or manner nor be involved in any dealings that will associate NTB with this entity.”
“In fact, there is no basis in law or any legislation that obligates NTB to do so. Formal press release will follow in this respect before end of this week.”
The NTTF is run by Nrupesh Soni, who has been vocal on the need for more inclusivity in the sector.
His forum also has an MOU with the tourism ministry and by the time of the writing of this article, was representing Namibia at the Dubai Expo.
But he said he is not moved by the actions of Fenata, HAN and NTB.
“If you go back to 18 months ago, it was the same thing when I started asking questions to Fenata and they were not forthcoming. They felt they needn’t answer to anyone because they have been in a comfortable position all these years.
“HAN falls under Fenata and so it has always been Fenata and at the same time, NTB was and is working closely with Fenata because every meeting I went to, I would see Fenata would actually speak more than NTB which shouldn’t be the case.
“It should be that NTB should be taking the lead but regardless, it has always been Fenata mainly. And if you see the board members, the exco of Fenata, it’s the same people who’ve always been there. I know that the chairperson is facing a lot of challenges and these associations, these groups, have always been against change, against a new way of doing things and they feel threatened from what I understand. It’s a free market, anyone can work with anyone,” he said.
Soni has said that his pursuit to disrupt the sector by doing things differently has been misinterpreted to mean he is out there to sore seeds of discord.
Nevertheless, the tourism sector has been understood to be underlined by race imbalances over the years.
It is one stain that various associations have been at pains to erase.
For its own part, the NTB has been criticised for sending a begging bowl to the ministry of tourism saying it has funds to last it only until November 2021.
Soni has clashed with the NTB, ridiculing it in public for lousy spelling mistakes on promotional material meant for an international audience.
Although the board has been understood to have fallen victim to the pandemic, but it has been criticized by others for advertising for a head of marketing who will cost between N$30 000 and N$60 000 monthly.
For his own part, Soni says he has become a victim for daring to put information in the public domain and the tourism ministry, information that may naturally be interpreted to be sensitive.
“What I am doing that they don’t seem to like? Well I am putting information out there. It’s basic. If there is a regulation change, if there is something that the ministry needs to know from the industry, everybody needs to have an input.
“If the ministry says something and there is an opportunity for exhibition or anything, everybody needs to know. We’re aware of the opportunity and this is where association give it to just a few of their people. How can they get privileged access? Which is what I am fighting against,” he said.