By Staff Reporter
Community-based tourism remains key in the fight against rural poverty.
This came up over the weekend when more than 40 community-based tourism enterprises (CBTEs) from across the country gathered in Omaruru to underpin the massive role they ought to play in uplifting the economy.
Under the auspices of the Namibia Community-Based Tourism Assistance Trust (NACOBTA), participants from as far afield as Warmbad, Caprivi and Opuwo committed themselves to community-based tourism.
They urged government to provide long-term meaningful support to NACOBTA and its associate CBTEs so that true empowerment can be achieved.
“We need long-term support, we are very happy for every possible support we can get, but to lift our businesses to the level of commercial entities, we need more than only support in building infrastructure” stressed one campsite operator from the far north.
The 2005 statistics show an income of N$13 746 564 from community-based natural resource management.
“We want to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from community-based tourism, and we want them to do so in a sustainable manner. I want you to double this figure by 2010,” challenged the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Willem Konjore.
As much as the CBTEs are often criticised for their low service standards, they very much have problems of their own.
Role players in this sector also bemoaned that some tourists make bookings and never show up.
The CBTE operators urged NACOBTA and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to monitor and assess implementation levels of the Tourism Transformation Charter.
Some operators feel that the charter has resulted in the ‘adoption’ of some CBTEs by big operators and that otherwise little has improved.
CBTEs proposed that any tour operators entering townships, conservancies or communal areas should be obliged to make use of local tour guides. This, they claim, would be a real contribution to empowering rural communities.
CBTEs in those areas feel that the current practice of big tour operators cruising through townships, communal areas and conservancies without leaving anything for the benefit of these communities is counterproductive to the achievement of all national plans.
Whilst modalities such as pricing, insurance and standards would have to be fine-tuned, the principal agreement should be obtained with no delay.
CBTEs in Namibia further urge all parties involved to properly prepare for the increasing number of visitors in the wake of World Cup 2010. This issue was highlighted because tourists inform CBTEs that Southern Africa and Namibia are prominent media issues around the world, yet little is being done in Namibia to prepare the rural population for this.
The CBTEs have requested urgent support, also to further enhance their service capacities to deal with the increased numbers of visitors, and expressed their worry that their voices will not be heard until it is too late, yet when things go wrong the blame is put at the doorstep of the CBTEs despite their pleas.