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Tour operators unhappy over hiked park fees

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SHAROLDINE BOCK

WALVIS Bay and Swakopmund tour operators at Sandwich Harbour and Namib-Naukluft Park and surroundings are disgruntled over the increase in national park entry fees announced by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism earlier this year.

The operators met with ministry officials last week at the Kuisebmond municipal chambers to discuss the issue.

According to ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda, the fees were increased this year to be on par with the rest of the southern African region.

“Namibia’s rates are very low compared to the rest of the region. Also, funding from these fees should be used to help improve parks and wildlife management … for the development of national parks such as the Etosha National Park, which needs a fence,” Muyunda said at the meeting.

He said the last park fee increase was about 10 years ago.

Fees have this year increased from N$10 to N$50 for Namibians, and from N$30 to N$50 for Southern African Development Community (SADC) citizens.

Vehicles are now charged an entry fee of N$50 to national parks, and international visitors will pay N$100.

Kenneth Kapitako, the owner of Sandwich Dune Tours and Safari, at the meeting said he has written to the ministry in April requesting them to reserve the new park fees for a minimum of 12 months in the hope that the international market would reopen.

“A 400% increase in fees is high. This will obviously discourage locals from visiting the parks, and will also make local tour packages unaffordable,” he said.

He also requested that the ministry consider reducing park fees during the low season.

Christof Marais from Levo Tours at Walvis Bay said he can barely stay afloat.

Marais had to close office in September last year as the pandemic affected his income, he is now operating from home.

He said the sudden fee increase will affect their operations as clients have made their 2021/22 bookings in advance.

He asked the ministry to give tour operators a six-month grace period to inform their international agencies on the price increase and to requote them.

“The park fees are so high, we obviously underquoted them . . . It is not worth giving them tours at that price,” Marais said.

Manie le Roux, a control warden at the ministry, said a portion of the increased park fees would go towards conservation.

“That money can be accessed by parks’ management,” he said.

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