December 17, 2010

Black ownership lacking in tourism industry

A major shake-up was needed in the tourism industry to enhance black ownership in the sector, said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), Digu //Naobeb. According to //Naobeb drastic steps needed to be taken to transform ownership in the tourism industry if previously disadvantaged communities are to be empowered. He also said that access to start-up capital was the major stumbling block for previously disadvantaged groups to enter the lucrative tourism sector.

Statistics released by NTB reveal that previously disadvantaged Namibians only own 90 of the 1.361 registered tourism establishments in the country. Accroding to the statistics, 927 are owned by white Namibians while the rest, 344, are foreign owned. These figures only include those establishments with sole black, white or foreign ownership, and do not include ownership through shareholding. The statistics also revealed that no previously disadvantaged Namibian owns an air charter operator's licence or one to operate a tented lodge, while only one owns a trophy hunting licence or a guest-farm. Most black Namibians in the tourism and hospitality sector are tour and safari operators, at 26, while 21 are tour facilitators, and 24 bed and breakfast operators.

//Naobeb said establishments such as tented lodges, air charter operations and guest farms were very expensive to operate but generated the most revenue in the tourism industry, thus mostly owned by the previously advantaged white community and foreigners. However, //Naobeb remarked that some foreigners were also involved in low-end tourism initiatives that were not very capital intensive, thus directly competing with indigenous Namibian operators. "It is very disturbing to note that some foreigners are even involved in projects that are not high level capital outlay projects such as booking establishments," he said.

He said the NTB has initiated legislative reforms, such as the new NTB Bill, as well as studies to look into transformation issues in the tourism industry. The NTB CEO expressed optimism that the new proposed legislation, when enacted, would level the playing field in the industry in terms of ownership. He said the NTB would also engage the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank) and other stakeholders to enable emerging black commercial farmers who acquire commercial farms through Affirmative Action (AA) loans to also venture into trophy hunting. (The Namibian)

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