THE Namibian Wetland Route Association has called for better bilateral agreement between Namibia and Botswana to ensure an easy flow of travel for tourists, which will benefit both Namibian and Botswana operators along the Chobe River.
The chairperson of the organisation, Simone Micheletti, during an interview with The Namibian yesterday noted that currently tourism operators along the Chobe-Zambezi floodplains of Namibia are having challenges because the area is inaccessible as the road is affected by annual floods.
He then explained that Kasane is currently the easier access for communities and tourists, but that Covid-19 restrictions and requirements make it very costly and complicated.
“For example, if it’s only a transit then Covid-19 requirements and other visa formalities could be exempted or relaxed. Also the famous Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area visa could be implemented like in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Kasane border operating hours also penalises tourism transit, as the border closes at 16h30,” he said.
He further added that locally the operators along the Chobe-Zambezi floodplains were faced with the constant absence of immigration officials at Kasika and Impalila, discouraging some tourists from coming into Namibia due to tight schedules.
“However, the line ministry has now reassured us that it will be an issue of the past, as the immigration officials will be available,” he said.
He also said that they need to have a fixed Covid-19 testing site on the Namibian side, and that they are in talks with the Ministry of Health and Social Services to do this.
According to Micheletti the tourism sector along the Chobe River employs mostly locals and if it continues to be in the state that it currently is, many locals will soon lose their income.
The executive director of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security, Etienne Maritz, told The Namibian that the border between Kasane and Imapalila has been operational since February this year, and can be used by anyone as long as they meet the Covid-19 health requirements.
He dismissed claims of the constant absence of immigration officials at the Impalila border post, saying that they always make sure there are officials.
“However, should there be no immigration officials, travellers should contact the numbers provided at the border’s notice board,” he said.