By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK A three-member delegation from the Swaziland Tourism Authority (STA) that was in the country on a fact-finding mission on tourism levies concluded their discussions with the Namibia Tourism Board last Friday. Vice-Chairperson of the NTB Board of Directors Benita Herma-Herrle stated that though STA could be regarded as a competitor in the region, the Swazi delegation and the local board have for a week been engaged in talks about the standardizing of levies and how the tourism boards are financed among other issues. Considering that the board for the tourism industry in Swaziland was only established a few years ago, officials of the board have been looking for a country with a model they can apply to their situation in order to bring about efficient and effective services. Eric Maseko, the Chief Financial Officer of STA and Head of this delegation, stated the board identified Namibia as the only country in the region that has succeeded in implementing a system that has enabled the industry to be self-sustainable. At a media briefing, Maseko added there is a great need that tourism boards strive to become self-sustaining especially that many countries have failed to penetrate other potential markets in western countries due to lack of enough resources. Despite Swaziland attaining its independence years before Namibia, the board feels using the Namibian model would be suitable to the Swaziland setup than for them to re-invent the wheel. “We are here to see and conceptualize what Namibia has been using as she is the only country in Africa that has done this well,” he stated. According to the United Nations Tourism Industry stipulated requirements, it is advised that tourism boards be operated and regulated by independent bodies. Nevertheless, countries in Southern Africa have failed to comply with this and only Namibia has managed to implement what is required. Other countries such as Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa have not fully taken over the industry’s operations. In these countries, the boards are responsible for the marketing of the industry only while regulation and facilitation of training in the industry are government operated. Further, the local board’s Strategic Executive in Industry Services Digu //Naobeb informed the visiting delegation that the NTB in its efforts to find ways of sustaining itself and generate the much-needed funds for marketing purposes, in 2004 introduced the payment of tourism levies. This entails that two percent (2 %) of the amount or tariff the owner of a registered accommodation establishment charges his or her guests for bed and breakfast must be paid to the NTB. In the past years, this has only been applicable to owners of well established accommodation facilities. However, //Naobeb during a meeting with the press indicated, though not in-depth, that this amount is not enough and that the system is equally fragile and can easily be manipulated. He could not reveal what levy percentage the board would consider, indicating that consultations are still on. Consultations are expected to be finalized by October and only then would the new levy introductions be made part of the review for the tourism season absorption. The board is currently considering increasing the two percent levy and also charges would be pressed on camping houses facility providers as well as to car renting institutions. Currently, the local board is short-chained as it has not been able to enter international markets such as the United States and China due to limited resources to open offices and for collateral material. The delegation also had practical experience as they within the week inspected some tourism facilities in the country. Head of delegation Maseko expressed satisfaction on the findings, telling New Era that all establishments comply with the requirements in the industry.