CURRENCY EXCHANGE DEFICIT SCUPPERS TOURISM

By Penda Jonas Hashoongo
June 2016
Travel and Tourism

A lack of adequate currency conversion outlets in the area more commonly known as Damaraland, spanning from Outjo to Uis, continues to afflict entrepreneurs on the lower end of the spectrum in the tourism sector.

 The area, which is heavily dependent on tourism, offers countless touristic attractions to visitors who usually come from European nations, the Americas or South Africa and has subsequently opened up a market for residents of the area to open up small establishments where they can sell hand-crafted goods to these foreign guests.

With the commencement of the high tourism season, these road-side entrepreneurs, who rely on cash for their business transactions, are set to miss out on significant revenue for yet another year, owing to the lack of sufficient currency conversion outlets which tourists can use to change money from the currencies of their native countries to Namibian dollars.
Samueline Ganes, a tour guide at the Petrified Forrest located near Khorixas in the heart of Damaraland, relates to Prime Focus Magazine the need for the area to have access to more currency conversion outlets.

“We have many cases of people coming here and wanting to buy goods at the shop but they only have Euros or American dollars so they often have to travel to Khorixas to go and change their money, if they can find somewhere to that, and come back to buy the things they want. The problem is that the distance between here and there is a lot and the gravel road is not the most comfortable to drive on so sometimes the people don’t come back which means that we have to lose out on that money,” Ganes says with reference to the community-owned shop that sells hand-made jewellery, semi-precious stones and other forms of collectables located at the entrance of the Petrified Forrest.

“This shop is owned by the community. It is operated by us, the staff of the Petrified Forrest and we only take out the taxes and the rest of the money goes back to the community. That is why it is important that the people who visit the Forrest can buy something here if they want to take something back to remember this experience,” she adds.

Although the roadside merchants are the most aggrieved by the lack of adequate to currency conversation outlets, larger and more established tourism places in the area also bemoan the currency conversion deficit as a challenge to their operations, albeit at a lesser scale.

“We have a speed point here and it is able to access any card whether it’s VISA, MasterCard. Our speed point is reliant on cellular network however and sometimes it’s very difficult to get through and complete transactions and this is where the lack of currency conversion outlets becomes a problem as our guests often only have money in their own currencies,” Mattanja van der Vis, the Manager of Gondwana Damara Mopane Lodge, located 20km east of Khorixas tells Prime Focus Magazine.

“We experience this problem even with the tip box. You will often find that it is full of Euros or USD and this is difficult for us to change until we go to the bank because we are not permitted to change currency on our own and the rates differ each day so it really is a challenge,” she adds.

Van der Wis concludes by encouraging more locals to start traveling and getting to know their own country because they could, in doing so, make a great contribution to tourism sector in the region, which may also lead to the development of the towns in the area to house more currency conversion establishments.