Tour operators deplore park fees

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Eveline de Klerk

WALVIS BAY – Swakopmund and Walvis Bay tour operators working in and around Sandwich Harbor say recent increases in park entrance fees are a setback for them, especially now that they are barely managing to join the two ends. According to tour operators, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism increased park fees by nearly 100% in April this year. The operators met yesterday with the ministry and the representative of the Namibian Tourism Board (NTB) to discuss their challenges, including the entrance fees to the park.

Adjusted fees range from N $ 10 to N $ 50 for Namibians, SADC tourists will pay N $ 30 to N $ 60, and foreigners pay N $ 40 to N $ 100 per person. Vehicles are charged N $ 50. Although prices are relatively low, tour operators say they are barely earning enough to stay afloat as tourists are scarce due to Covid-19.

Kenneth Kapitako, owner of Sandwich Dune Tours and Safari, said in an interview shortly after the meeting that since last year they have had to do business differently due to the industry downturn. He complained that the increase in park fees at this point is not good for the industry, although it may not seem like much to the naked eye. “This is why we want the ministry to go back to the old prices, at least until the end of Covid, because we are barely making ends meet. Many tour operators have even closed their doors,” Kapitako stressed.

They also had to reduce their prices, just to attract local tourists, which also made business operations more difficult. In addition, it had to lower its prices by more than 40% to ensure that it also attracted local customers. “Normally we would bill N $ 1,300, but in the last two months we are billing around N $ 900 per person. From this money, we have to take into account our expenses for fuel, our refreshments as well as the park fees that we have to pay for the tourists, the tour guides and the vehicles that we use, ”explained Kapitako.

Another tour operator echoed similar sentiments, saying she had had to lay off some of her staff because it just didn’t make sense to operate in these difficult times. “Yes, the fees are minimal, but we’re not making a profit at this point. In some cases, we would only have eight people for a whole month at a reduced price. This same money is used for basic maintenance of the business, ”she noted.

Nonetheless, the industry has thanked the Namibians for keeping them afloat during difficult times. “The Namibians really showed up for us. Without them who supported us, we would have already closed, ”said industry players. Meanwhile, MET spokesman Romeo Muyunda said Namibian parks fees were the lowest in SADC and were last increased in 2005.

“These costs should have been included in their total packages,” he added. Muyunda believed that the tour operators do not pay the fees, but the tourists themselves pay the fees. “We don’t charge them when they enter the parks, but we charge the tourists. They need to clarify that and organize these fees in advance and calculate them in their prices, instead of paying them themselves, ”he continued.

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2021-08-19 Eveline de Klerk

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