Local Tour Operators Demand Fair Access to Etosha

A cloud of injustice has been hanging over local tour operators at Etosha National Park.

Despite being essential contributors to Namibia’s tourism sector, these entrepreneurs are unjustly barred from accessing the park’s treasures by the new Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism management based at Okaukuejo.

At the heart of the matter lies a contradiction: Etosha, a national park meant for all to enjoy, appears to close its doors to those who seek to showcase it.

Local tour operators, armed with approved vehicles and necessary permits, are denied entry and transit through the park.

With businesses registered and approved by regulatory bodies, these upcoming entrepreneurs say they have met all requirements to operate within the tourism sector.

Yet, they face seemingly arbitrary obstacles.

The new management claims to rely on regulation 9 of the regulations related to the Nature Conservation Ordinance 4 of 1975, which provides for general regulations applicable to game parks.

From the legal opinion, a cursory look by learned lawyers thereof conclude that regulation 9 does not prohibit the movement of game viewing vehicles and local tour operators, hence the submission that this restriction was merely placed on local tour operators strictly to hinder their respective businesses.

The irony is that the same regulations are not applicable to other established tour operators who own lodges around the park, and are being implemented at Anderson Gate only.

The main question looms: Is this industry reserved for specific people only?

The wrongful interpretation of regulation 9 by the new management is fostering a monopoly that stifles competition and innovation.

Local operators provide a vital service, bringing tourists to the park and contributing to its economic growth and conservation efforts.

Namibia’s environmental and tourism laws, enshrined to protect and preserve, must serve as guiding lights in this tumultuous terrain.

Through adherence to these laws, we ensure not only the sustainability of our natural heritage, but also the equitable distribution of opportunities for all stakeholders.

Contrary to claims of “trading inside the park and stealing customers from Namibian Wildlife Resorts (NWR) resorts within the park”, local tour operators do not drive empty vehicles in search of clients. They rely on pre-booked arrangements and online platforms to conduct their business with their clients accommodated by NWR resorts.

Tensions have risen as the new officials were ill advised by some old officials within the park, who have expressed jealousy and resistance to local entrepreneurs’ success.

This hostility not only undermines Namibia’s spirit of inclusivity, but also threatens to exacerbate unemployment, unnecessary unintended tensions and worse, crime rates if left unchecked.

In the quest for fairness and inclusivity, let us heed the words of Namibia’s Environmental Management Act and Tourism Act, which espouse principles of conservation, community involvement and responsible tourism practices.

The local tour operators’ contribution bolsters the park’s income and supports conservation initiatives.

In the spirit of fairness and economic empowerment, local tour operators are calling on the ministry to intervene.

The new management at Okaukuejo must stop the ‘us’ and ‘them’ egocentric identity.

It’s not about exclusion or monopoly, but about fostering a vibrant and inclusive tourism sector that benefits all Namibians.

Tour operators are demanding a letter from the ministry’s office stating the legal grounds for open-view vehicles not being allowed in the park without tourists on board.

This is not only meant for clear interpretation of regulation 9, but it would uplift local entrepreneurs in the tourism industry and also pave the path for a healthy coexistence and more prosperous and equitable future for all Namibians.

– Etosha local tour guides and operators

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