Sandwich Harbour concession tender causes outcry among tour operators.

Niël Terblanché

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) is facing pushback for its decision to issue a concession tender for the management of one of Namibia’s major tourist attractions, the Sandwich Harbour area south of Walvis Bay.

A coalition of tour guides has launched a petition in which they voice their discontent and challenge the ministry’s decision to put the concession for the area on tender.

The group asserts that the tender process could potentially monopolise access to the area, disadvantaging smaller tour companies and contradicting the ethos of freedom and enterprise championed by leaders in the fight for Namibian independence.

Tour operators argue that this concession could result in increased costs for tourists due to the passing down of fees, thereby making it more difficult for smaller entities to compete and survive in the market.

“If this concession is awarded to a single entity or a select group of companies, it will create a competitive disadvantage, potentially leading to job losses and adding to the unemployment crisis in Namibia,” the petition reads.

They also contend that some, still reeling from the Fishrot corruption scandal, view MEFT’s decision as a continuation of a worrying trend where land concessions allegedly benefit a select few.

“This isn’t just about business; it’s about preserving our right to manage our resources and ensuring that benefits are not syphoned off to the minority,” they added in their petition.

The MEFT, however, defended its decision, citing the need for better management and conservation efforts in the area.

According to Romeo Muyunda, the MEFT’s spokesperson, the concession aims to control access to the area, maintain facilities, and regulate activities to mitigate environmental degradation noted in recent years.

“Our goal is to ensure that Sandwich Harbour remains a pristine and accessible destination for all tourists, not just a few. The tender process is open and aims to find the best candidate to help us achieve these objectives,” Muyunda explained.

Despite MEFT’s assurances, the operators remain sceptical.

“We’ve seen promises of community benefits before,” they said.

The tour operators stated that they have not witnessed transparency and fairness in the management of these concessions.

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