Windhoek-Due to the low amount of levies collected through local tourism activities the Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta has directed the newly appointed Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) members to up their game and change the status quo.
A tourism levy is a non-taxable amount paid to the NTB by hospitality establishments and is normally included in the money tourists or visitors staying at lodges and other tourism accommodation establishments have to pay per day/night.
Shifeta, who inaugurated the new NTB members on Thursday, said NTB currently does not effectively get all levies collected by registered accommodation establishments like lodges.
In order to control this, they are going to empower the NTB to collect tourism levies from hospitality establishments. The board, to serve for three years, is made up of Paul Brinkmann who is the new chairperson, and four other members, namely Silas Shakumu, Madelein /Goagoses, Terance Makari and Marie Friede.
Shifeta said Namibia has been receiving a high number of tourists, but the levies collected from establishments did not increase.
During 2015, Namibia received 1.51 million foreign arrivals, a 3 percent increase from tourist arrivals in 2014, calculated at 1.4 million.
Shifeta said he failed to understand why the levies collected from the 1.4 million tourists do not even account for 60 percent of revenue paid to the state.
He directed that the new board work with urgency to finalise the NTB amendment bill to allow for the introduction of annual renewal fees, empower tourism inspectors to enforce the provision on any contravention on the Act, and to enhance revenue collection.
Shifeta noted every owner of a registered accommodation establishment, other than a campsite or a camping or caravan park, must pay a levy to the NTB in the manner prescribed by regulations.
“We have a kind of impediment in collecting levies because tourism establishments have to register and pay a levy per head. Everyday a person sleeps at an establishment there is money deducted per night. But when you look at reports, I doubt if this really tallies with the occupancy rate and tourist growth. You had almost an average occupancy rate of 60 percent last year for instance, which has been constant. Sometimes you have 80 percent even during the low season. So there is no way establishments can say they did not have enough clients. There is something wrong there because the levy collected by NTB does not match the number of clients received at establishments,” he contended.
Shifeta also proposed to increase the N$7 levy to at least N$10 per night, saying for too long the ministry has kept the existing N$7 without any increment.
He said the levy paid does not go anywhere but stays in the tourism industry, which will at the end of the day benefit hospitality establishments.
He also directed the board, whose term started on April 1, to conclude within one month a governance and performance agreement for presentation to the minister for signature.
NTB was urged to provide the tourism minister with strategic and financial plans annually, at least 90 days before the commencement of its next financial year as per provisions of the Public Enterprises Governance Act.
NTB was furthermore told to submit an annual report on its operations as soon as possible or not later than six months after the end of the financial year.
Moreover, he encouraged the new board to increase tourist visitors and develop tourism activities in Namibia, saying both the government and private sector depend heavily on the efficiency and effectiveness of NTB.