Botswana tourism needs to invest in diversity

15 Jul 2019

It is now abundantly that in Botswana, the tourism sector has continued to spurn diversity.

If the industry is to continue being relevant and also to enjoy public goodwill, the balance of power needs to change – swiftly and aggressively.

It has to include the hitherto excluded communities and societies.

The trouble with Botswana’s tourism sector has been its ruthless focus on growth and expansion at the expense of self-introspection to ensure and enhance inclusion and also diversity.

In the more prime areas of the Chobe and the Okavango Delta, there is no evidence that the sector takes ethnic diversity seriously.

Government calls on demographic composition of the country to be reflected in the makeup of tourism sector has continued to be half-hearted and unenforced.

It is not only the core of the industry that has refused to diversify.

Its support services like legal, audit and research has steadfastly remained white, thus putting all the black people and firms at bay.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi arrived on the scene chanting “land, land, land.”

More than twelve months later nothing has happened with regard to land reforms.

And the president seems to be going quiet on his mantra.

We call on him to should finish what he started. That means allocating land to citizens for them to be able to enter tourism.

We cannot rely on the good heartedness and grace of non-citizens already in the sector to allow citizens space.

That is not how human nature.

Mankind is an inherently greedy animal. And they strive to always hold on to what they have.

What government needs to do is to show those already in that the more the merrier.

And that diversity by its natures spawns sustainability.

Tourism sector has to actively move away from exclusivity to inclusion.

It is only when every demographic is included that charges of racism will cease.

It is important to note that as an economic sector, tourism in Botswana has been growing – in its contribution to the economic but also in its sheer size.

The same however cannot be said about its inclusivity.

It is clear that left on its own, this anomaly can never correct itself.

For years the owners of the sector have been asked, begged, cajoled and implored to hire, partner, promote and in some instances mentor citizens.

That, if it happened has been at a shockingly slow pace as to be negligible.

That has to change.

And what better way to change it than in a government that is actively interventionist on the sector.

Those Batswana that have been able to squeeze themselves into the sector have often felt unwelcome, out of place and in some instances outright unwanted.

The sector has to demonstrate a mindset in its preparedness to grapple with what government wants to achieve.

The industry itself has been given ample time to remedy the situation.

It has failed, owing to vested commercial interests, but also to subtle albeit deeply ingrained bias bordering closely on racism.

When it finally happens, it is important to ensure that the new comers are set up to fail.

They should be treated the same way like industry insiders.