Roof of Africa to retrench 55

By Rosalia David

THE Roof of Africa Hotel and Conference Centre lost income of about N$1million in just one month after government announced the partial lockdown in the Khomas and Erongo region last month.

This was revealed by the owner Torsten Rukrummow, who also told Confidente that he might have to retrench 55 out of 60 employees, as he is unable to pay their salaries. “I had a meeting with my people to negotiate and at least agree on a 50 percent working time salary because the business is highly affected. We have already lost a million dollars in just one month of closure,” he said.

Rukrummow added that their revenue had dropped tremendously that he had to give the employees the option of voluntarily resigning. “I sat with 15 employees only and gave them an offer to pay them out and they can either take the money, or go as we are not allowed to retrench people, and no one left yet. I am not going to force anyone to leave. We are going to continue playing the game, I will try and pay them again next month.

“After we spoke, they were all asking why them. It is a sad story but unfortunately I would have to let them go either way at some point.” He went on to say that if he could keep all his employees he would gladly do so.

Rukrummow said he went as far as applying for a loan at the bank, which was rejected.

“Maybe Bank Windhoek will assist me with N$5 million, because I have tried my luck there as well and I have been following up with Social Security Commission but have not received any promising response yet. We have been in business for 25 years now and have never retrenched anyone.

According to Rukrummow the hotel has gone as far as brewing less than 3% alcohol to try and make a little bit of profit from drinks

“If I can survive the year then we are a little bit fine because every month is a loss, my business depends on tourism income and if we have no people coming it means there is no work. How do cleaners come to work if there are no people? I have more than 30 waitresses and they can’t work,” he stressed.

He further mentioned that Roof of Africa now makes only 10% profit from its turnover, which the business is struggling to survive from as bills continue to pile up. “These people need to eat but at the same time it is a tricky situation we have found ourselves in because of Covid-19. We can only hope for the best” he said.

Last month, The Namibia Tourism Board’s Digu //Naobeb was quoted in the local press as saying most lodges were having to pay refunds to clients who had booked, because tourists often pay for their stay in advance, which might have a negative impact on lodges and hotels.

Pohamba Shifeta, the tourism minister also told the media recently that Namibia is a small economy with businesses that depend on day-to-day income.

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Without this income, there are fears of massive job losses.

In the same month, Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations also released a tourism industry update on Covid-19, saying the tourism industry is already feeling the economic pinch due to the unprecedented measures that restricted travel around the globe.

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For Namibia they estimated that there would be a significant decline in revenue this year, as well as the closure of businesses and job losses.

In a related development employees of the Rock Painting Lodge in Uigaran in the Erongo region reported that their salaries would be cut by half starting next month, and that there were unconfirmed reports that the lodge will retrench at least 15 employees.

Not only has the Covid-19 affected lodges and hotels but has also caused people who sell souvenirs and African art to tourists to lose customers, who are the life-blood of this key sector of the economy and there is no replacement income to sustain their livelihoods.