Allegations threaten to fracture fragile tourism industry

Rival tourism associations are scrabbling for what remains of Namibia’s embattled travel industry.

08 July 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

Namibian tourism organisations say a new player in the industry is stoking disunity within the sector with false and misleading allegations.

Nrupesh Soni’s Namibia Travel and Tourism Forum has, since it was founded last year, consistently bumped heads with the Namibian Tourism Board (NTB) and the Hospitality Association of Namibia (Han).

Amongst recent allegations he made, Soni said Han is trying to be the mouthpiece of the tourism industry and deliberately trying to cause a rift within the industry.

This, he said, is because the Federation of Namibia Tourism Associations (Fenata) and its chairperson, Netumbo Nashandi, were not invited to Han’s annual general meeting (AGM), set to take place today.

Soni claimed this was because of race.

He added that in previous years, Fenata’s executive committee was invited to these meetings.

“This is a deliberate attempt to fragment the industry,” he said.

You’re confused

However, CEO of Han, Gitta Paetzold, dismissed the allegation, saying Soni is confused.

“In the past when times were normal, Han hosted its AGM as part of a two-day event preceding its tourism congress, tourism trade forum and gala.”

The latter three events were always open to the media and stakeholders, she said.

“We had planned such event for Lüderitz, but due to Covid-19, we had to postpone the events.”

Paetzold added that constitutional requirements, however, require Han to hold AGMs in a given time frame.

Soni added that based on NTB’s latest data, 5 473 tourism establishments are registered, while only 880 belong to tourism associations, of which 280 belong to Han.

“How is it that an association with 5% members from the entire industry gets to be the voice? Their perspective is only lodges, not tour operators, etc. How would they know what is happening on the ground and at borders?”



He said, she said

Paetzold stressed that she is not the mouthpiece for the sector, adding that Han has been in existence for more than 30 years and is a voluntary organisation.

“If people want, they can join us. People choose to belong to us.”

She added that it seems as though Soni has an issue with associations and therefore tries to discredit them.

“Namibia has freedom of associations. We do not accept the allegations of misconduct and exclusivity that has been made because Han follows the guidelines and constitution of Han and, as a voluntary organisation, members choose to belong to Han.”

She said its responsibility, therefore, lies with the client and it is not about keeping anyone out.

She also dismissed all allegations of racial discrimination, adding that Nashandi is not Fenata’s first black chairperson.

Soni’s other allegations, regarding misappropriation of funds and misconduct, have all been proven false, Paetzold said.

She further said it should be a concern to everyone that Soni is trying to destabilise an already fragile industry.

Not affiliated

Meanwhile, CEO of NTB Digu //Naobeb said Soni’s company is creating confusion among international tourism agents.

He explained that Soni has been sending newsletters to operators in Germany from his company, adding that people are under the impression these newsletters are from NTB, which has resulted in damage to the company.

He said NTB is the official tourism marketing organisation of Namibia and is not affiliated with the Namibia Travel and Tourism Forum.

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