No tax relief in sight

Namibia’s borders are now closed to all visitors. As a result the tourism industry sees only one way out and that is to advertise tourism locally, with various special offers already available.

22 March 2020 | Tourism

Swakopmund • [email protected]

Not only is the tourism industry hoping for tax relief in the face of the mayhem caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they feel there should also be a break, at least temporarily, for the repayment of home and car loans for Namibians from all walks of life.

At least that’s what the opposition party PDM demands. “This should ease the burden for residents somewhat,” PDM president McHenry Venaani said in Windhoek recently.

“Although we also made a recommendation that a tax waiver be introduced in the tourism sector, this decision is now in the hands of the responsible minister,” said Gitta Paetzold, managing director of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN).

Representatives from the industry met with tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta to discuss the possibility of interest and tax holidays due to the coronavirus. Unfortunately, there was no concrete answer.

“Whether there is a tax waiver or not depends on the finance minister or the tax authorities,” Paetzold said.

However, there is no answer from these authorities yet.

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein predicted a bleak future on Tuesday shortly after President Hage Geingob declared the state of emergency.

“Small economies are usually hit harder by such crises,” he said. He also announced initial estimates: According to him, it is expected that “almost all economies worldwide will experience a growth slump of 0.5 to one percent”.

Nevertheless, he announced that “N$124 million is immediately available” to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Namibia. Where and how the money is to be used, is still unclear. However, Schlettwein said he is currently working on an impact assessment.
In order to at least temporarily save the Namibian tourism sector, all companies reacted quickly to the closure of the borders.

“Local is lekker” is the theme of the new promotion campaign, while several accommodation establishments and other tour operators have introduced special offers for Namibians. Others have had to close their doors temporarily.

“It was raining well and the country is green and beautiful. It is a great opportunity for Namibians to explore their own country at a reasonable rate,” Paetzold said, adding that “all tourism companies have introduced the necessary hygiene measures”.

Namibia Wildlife Resorts also reacted quickly and extended their special offer to April in view of the 30th independence anniversary. Nevertheless, the company also said they are preparing for a rough ride.

“We anticipate quite a dramatic impact on this state-owned company,” minister of state-owned enterprises, Leon Jooste, said on Tuesday.