By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Tourism establishments in the country have been found wanting in the way they pay their tourism levies. Despite an increase in the occupancy rates over the years, levies have been declining. Due to this, the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) has handed seven establishments over to its lawyers for criminal charges for evading payment. These establishments are in the hotel, lodge and guest farm categories. The tourism levy is a tax that establishments in the industry pay to the NTB. As of the end of 2007, N$10.3 million was collected from establishments, yet if all were paying, according to NTB Acting Chief Executive officer Digu //Naobeb, the board would raise between N$14 million and N$15 million a year. These are projections made taking into consideration an occupancy rate of 30 percent. He told the press on Thursday that having made comparisons with the previous years, the board is calling on establishments in the industry that are suspected of faltering to find out the reasons why the levies are declining. //Naobeb said the board knows that the rates for guest farms are equal to those of hotels but this did not reflect in the way the levies were paid. Of 159 guest farms operating in the country, three percent paid their levies according to a levy collection summary for the period ending March 31. The summary also indicates that 31 percent of 48 hotels and 26 percent of 135 paid their levies. All establishments except campsites, camping and caravan parks are supposed to pay levies on a monthly basis. Consequently, the board said it will not allow any registered establishments that do not honour their payments to participate in activities such as the Tourism Indaba and the ITB that are aimed at attracting tourists to their facilities. “We will not engage them in receiving visitors or journalists from abroad,” he said. The acting CEO said although the industry expects the board to use the levies to market their individual establishments, the levy is a tax and not a membership fee. In addition, he said that the board markets Namibia as a whole while establishments themselves should market their activities to attract tourists to their doors. Ironically, said //Naobeb, smaller establishments that are classified as previously disadvantaged were paying both their membership fees and levies diligently. Meanwhile, the board has also expressed concern over the actions by some estate agents especially at the coast, that are renting out unregistered accommodation facilities to tourists. //Naobeb said with two films set to be shot at the coast, agents are rushing to owners of accommodation facilities to have them rent their facilities. This, however, is against the law as facilities are supposed to be registered before accommodating tourists. “We are looking at this as a matter of urgency,” said //Naobeb.
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