Namibia’s new visa regulation ‘could deter tourists’

SOUTH African and other tour operators say Namibia’s visa regulations for foreign guides have become increasingly stringent, a major concern for tour operators selling guided tours to the country.

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Some of the requirements introduced by Namibian Home Affairs for guide visas include certified copies of all guiding and driving certificates, and passports. These need to be cleared and stamped in the country of origin.

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Home Affairs has rejected a number of documents that were deemed not clear or recent enough. Other requirements have been added regularly, with tour operators now needing to supply certified copies of their Namibian Tourism Board Membership Certificate to Home Affairs in Windhoek.

The visa process, which used to take two to three weeks, now takes up to two months due to a backlog at Home Affairs, according to tour operators.

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This two-month delay occurs despite submitting applications with correct documentation and paying the Tour and Safari Association of Namibia (TASA) invoices for the visa applications.

TASA, which handles a number of safari and tour operator visa applications, has expressed its frustration at the new system. Previously, it was possible to submit up to 30 applications a day, whereas now it is only allowed to submit five.

Jenman African Safaris, which specialises in guided group safaris, had a group delayed for several hours due to the border officials at Mohembo border requesting proof of the guide’s visa approval and proof of payment from Home Affairs. Some guides have had a prohibited stamp placed in their passports by the Namibian customs officials, even though they applied for their visas timeously.

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For tourists visiting the country on a guided tour, these delays can be frustrating and the arrest or reprimanding of guides is very discouraging. This may be concerning for tour operators and Namibia as tourism is a major industry that contributes N.

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2 billion (US$487 million) to the country’s gross domestic product.