Tourism is a key sector in Botswana and yet it remains difficult for potential and current tourism investors to make favourable business decisions due to the lack of updated statistics. These sentiments were aired by the Chairman of the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka. He was speaking at the association’s annual conference held recently in Maun, Botswana.
“The country continues to be behind in the provision of up to date statistics in the tourism sector. This makes it very difficult for potential investors to truly assess our current market status and future growth patterns. Indeed, those that have already invested are also affected, as it is difficult to make expansion plans. It is thus imperative that we make a concerted effort to bring performance figures up to date and be able to empower those that have the mandate to attract investors with the necessary tools to do so,” he said.
Matsheka, also felt there is need to appeal to the Government to continue ensuring that the environment in Botswana remains conducive for private sector participation and that all policies are aligned. He said such policies should include the mandates of organisations such as parastatals to facilitate business growth.
“To that effect, HATAB calls upon Government of Botswana to review the mandate and activities of the Botswana Tourism Organization. BTO seems to have recently transformed into a participant and player through its continued activities that are in direct competition with the private sector. As an example, BTO has deliberately gone into direct competition with the Matsieng Air Show and are hosting its own Gaborone Air Show around the same time. We are of the opinion that Government agencies should rather assist private sector initiatives rather than compete with them. More so, they are using public sector funds that could have been directed towards the promotion and marketing of Botswana as the ultimate tourism destination,” he added.
The HATAB also urged authorities to address all issues pertaining to concessions, license renewals and allocation in a timely manner. “We have noted that there is increasing delay in processing such applications, and when processed, industry often notes that there is inconsistency in the conditions of operation. For instance, some are given automatic renewal while others are subjected to a tender process at the end of their tenure. All this, casts uncertainties on investor confidence as well as creating a perceived preferential treatment of some over others. Such practices are not conducive to a friendly and fair investment environment in a democratically and open market society. “
Matsheka also bemoaned the need to various policy documents and called on the government to continuously assess and openly discuss new initiatives with industry players.
“As HATAB, we have aired our concerns over the Government’s increase of participation fees at Travel Market Fairs. As much as we appreciate that there is need for cost recovery in Government spending, we must also appreciate that there is need to support the industry in its efforts to market and grow the industry. We are also confident that the national basket will also benefit through industry participation at tourism fairs through increased visits to Botswana and in taxation received through company collections.”
HATAB is also concerned by the recent decision taken by the Botswana Government to unilaterally withdraw its membership from the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa RETOSA, a subsidiary of SADC.
“This decision was taken without any consultation with the industry partners. Ironically, this decision was taken at the time when Botswana was elected by RETOSA to the office of Chairperson. Furthermore, this decision was made while the country was actively participating in other regional efforts to promote regional collaboration and integration in the SADC region. It is also in direct contradiction of the stakeholders’ needs that have always been demonstrated by tourists who prefer to package the region in their itinerary to gain maximum value for their money,” gashed Matsheka.
One of the world well respected ranking and analysis magazine, the Forbes magazine singled out Botswana alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo as two African countries that made it to the publication’s list of The 10 Coolest Places to Go In 2017. Forbes highlighted Botswana for its elephant population – about 130,000, known to be the biggest in Africa and its government’s continued commitment towards its hunting ban.