In a wide ranging interview with HATAB, Chief Executive Officer, Lily Rakorong, shared the views of a sector that is tasked with being the alternative Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) earner outside mining.
She explained that HATAB had what it took to mobilise and promote an enabling environment for the country’s economic growth.
“Tourism is a sector whose contribution to the GDP can be significantly increased,” she told H&C.
HATAB, as the voice of the Tourism sector, is tasked with advocacy that will influence a conducive environment for businesses within the sector, including policy and regulatory frameworks that have resulted in some reforms being ade, for example the Point Based System.
Highlighting HATAB events with regards to the HATAB Annual Conference, Rakorong said: “Indeed, as HATAB, we believe for us to be able to achieve, we have to engage our different stakeholders, more so since tourism is extremely diverse.
“We engage stakeholders through our events and, in May 2013, we held our annual conference in Kasane where we discussed challenges with which the sector is faced. In preparation for this, we developed what we termed a catalogue of issues” for our various stakeholders, and stakeholders responded well to them. I must acknowledge that progress has been made, although I must point out that not at a speed we would like see.”
Commenting on the proliferation of hotels in the country, Rakorong said that hotel sector growth should not be a concern; while some member of the sector feel the industry has been oversubscribed, the HATAB boss says ompetition is healthy as it will push the industry to be more innovative, hence increasing consumer interest. The many hotels coming up are a welcome development, she says. The sector has increased, and continues to increase, the number of beds, especially in greater Gaborone, and this will help the city to compete for regional and nternational events as well as ensure the sector remains competitive.
However she was quick to add that this growth should be accompanied by relevant support services, in other words nfrastructure in terms of access to the destination, be it air, road, rail or urban planning.
“Even more important, there must be adherence to standards and the provision of a service that sells, which we are onfident that our members are offering,” Rakorong explained. She added that for this hotel growth to be sustainable, there was a need to focus on diversification of the sector in terms of urban tourism.
“Tourism is diverse , for example we have culture and heritage , entertainment, lifestyle and the like,” she said. “It al results in more rooms being developed.”
In terms of service delivery, Rakorong mentioned that, unfortunately, service was an issue that cut across the country’s economy and boiled down to the Botswana attitude towards work or work ethics.
“It is our view that the issue of service is a national concern, however we admit that we are the face when it comes to service. HATAB members within their different operations have embarked on training programmes, be it on their own initiative or through the training levy.
“At HATAB we believe that the role of this sector is to increase contribution to the GDP, increase Foreign Exchange Earnings and Game – changer: Hospitality industry can drive economy employment creation, as well increase, contribution to government revenues, naturally all of these to be derived in a sustainable manner,” she said.
The Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) exists to promote, encourage and police excellence in hospitality and tourism in Botswana. It is HATAB’s role to ensure that all visitors, both from within and without
Botswana, enjoy consistently high standards of service from the entire hospitality and tourism industry. The Association is an umbrella organisation representing all sectors of the industry.
Privately-established and funded, it is the governing body for all its members.