During the COVID-19 pandemic, travel professionals need to pay more attention in terms of engaging and booking with bona fide, registered enterprises in Namibia that comply with industry safety protocols to maintain standards of professionalism and client safety.
This is the message from Gitta Paetzold, CEO of the Hospitality Association of Namibia, who was speaking to Tourism Update about the discontinuation of the certification of tourism establishments by the Ministry of Health and Social Services under the Tourism Revival Initiative (TRI).
She said when Namibia started its TRI in September last year, the Ministry certified accommodation establishments under the TRI to ensure tourists were booked at establishments that met quality control standards for registration by the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) after they were issued a Fitness Certificate by the Ministry. This meant that two accreditations were required and this certified that establishments were fit for such purpose and could be used for quarantining and isolation purposes for COVID-19 confirmed cases, as well as to offer accommodation to tourists.
“When we reached the recent restrictive level again, travel professionals were keen to verify the certification status and thought we were back to the initial TRI state, but this has not been the case,” she said.
According to a letter sent out by the Ministry in June, all establishments registered by the NTB require Fitness Certificates, but all NTB-registered establishments with existing Fitness Certificates (expiring March 31, 2022) no longer need additional certification from the Ministry.
“This message should go out loud and clear to all agents and operators in an effort to control the many fly-by-night operations that register on Airbnb, Booking.com and other portals without following the laws of Namibia. In the tourism sector, this means that all tourism-related businesses must register with the NTB as well as relevant local authorities for a Fitness Certificate,” cautioned Paetzold.
Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism recently issued tourism guidelines applicable from July 1-15, confirming that accommodation establishments, operating within town or settlement boundaries, are required to have a valid NTB registration certificate and health fitness certificate issued by the local authority.
“If the accommodation establishment is operating in an area outside the jurisdiction of the local authority a health fitness certificate must be obtained from the Ministry of Health and Social Services,” says the document.
Tour and Safari Association (TASA) of Namibia Vice Chairperson, Margo Bishop, said: “From a tour operator point of view, which is where we fall in at TASA, I ask any establishment that we contract for a copy of its NTB registration documents, public liability insurance and a copy of its COVID-19 protocols. This is to help ensure that we are working with professionals who have the best interests of their staff and our clients at heart.”
Bishop said, due to the concerted efforts of the private sector in Namibia, tourism had been identified as a ‘front line sector’ and everyone employed in tourism had been eligible for a vaccination since March, when the roll-out began in Namibia.
“The lodges and accommodation establishments have had a very good uptake of vaccines. Some lodges in incredibly remote areas such as Serra Cafema, Shipwreck Lodge and those in the Hoanib region and the Etendeka conservancies have all managed to get their staff vaccinated.”
Bishop agreed with Paetzold’s sentiments that it was important, now more than ever, to ensure that anyone who was travelling to Namibia, dealt with establishments and operators who had all the documentation and protocols in place to ensure that travellers had the best, most hassle-free experience in the country.