Mudflinging in the tourism industry

The founder of the Namibia Travel and Tourism Forum has raised serious allegations against several tourism associations.

17 March 2021 | Tourism

Swakopmund • Erwin Leuschner

At the centre of a dispute in the tourism industry is Nrupesh Soni, who has made several allegations against many local tourism associations.
The conflict was triggered by a report recently published on Facebook on the “Project Whistleblower Namibia” page. While the report does not state the author’s name, Soni is quoted as criticising the fact that the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) and FENATA (the tourism umbrella organisation) pretend to be “the voice of the tourism industry, although membership is voluntary and not compulsory”.
“How can you then represent the entire industry?” he asked yesterday in an interview with our sister publication, the Allgemeine Zeitung (AZ).
Soni claims to have discussed this with several high-ranking officials in the tourism industry. He says he has since been threatened with defamation charges, and says he was questioned by the police after making a public complaint. “But I won't be intimidated,” Soni said.
While he did not deny or admit to harassing people on the Internet, he says that some media houses ignore him, including the national broadcaster.
After the report was published on Project Whistleblower Namibia, several people have reportedly been harassed by Soni.
“After the report, I thought that enough was enough and then he attacked me publicly again,” Nadja Schlusche, who has been in the tourism industry for more than 30 years, said. “He just doesn’t stop.” Several people told AZ that Soni would regularly threaten them in cell phone messages at all hours of the day or night.
HAN chief executive Gitta Paetzold also had to contend with a personal attack, as she is named in the report. “We have nothing to hide; I’m just doing my job. I think this is unfair to Namibia. We all work together,” Paetzold told the AZ.
Although the controversial report criticizes HAN and FENATA, the comments from the public are largely positive.
“Some of these people are working very hard to save tourism,” one person commented, while another said that “HAN and especially Gitta Paetzold have done so much for tourism together with FENATA”; and another: “HAN and FENATA were the first associations to fight for tourism when Covid hit the Namibian tourism industry in March 2020.”

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