BTO brought Berlin to GICC … Ok, just but a glimpse of it

11 Jun 2017

They say if you can’t go to Berlin (Germany), make Berlin come to you. Well, just kidding. Nobody ever said that. But that sounds like the perfect way to explain how I felt attending the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) post ITB Berlin show on Thursday night at Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC). 

The show presented a perfect opportunity to put into perspective the rave reviews Botswana ITB Berlin participation received from those who made the trip.  

“I want to give special recognition to the artistes for an awesome job done and also say that our performances are forever improving … our artists have proven that they are up there with the very best and no country in Africa beats Botswana in terms of the standard of quality exhibited by our artistes,” President Ian Khama was quoted as having said by international media. 

Well, I am not too sure about who beats who in Africa where standards and quality are concerned but I was impressed by the relatively short (40 minutes) production by the traditional music ensemble.

“That was the whole point,” was BTO Communications Manager Keitumetse Setlang’s response to my complaints about the fleeting performance. And wasn’t she right. The incredible production left most of us longing for more. 

Choreographed by well renowned local choreographer Andrew Kola the Botswana traditional dance ensemble put up an amazing performance. Their blend of various traditional dances and music from across the country while at the same time telling the Botswana story (at least from a tourism perspective) was a marvel to watch.

“The organisers wanted us to come up with a production that would represent all of Botswana’s natural beauty and heritage,” Kola told Lifestyle in a post-performance interview. 

And to achieve that Kola did not compromise on the standard of performers. He selected the best from some of the most notable local traditional dance crews that include; Mafitlhakgosi, Tsoga Africa, Mabutswapele, Nare tsa Pina, Mophato, Bana ba Kwena, and Gata la Tau among others. He said as much as the Berlin performance was technically superior to what we witnessed at the GICC he was impressed by the overall performance. He attributed the relatively short performance to the time frame they were given in Berlin. 

“We were given only 45 minutes to perform in Berlin and since this was just a repeat performance we had to stick to the same time frame,” Kola told Lifestyle. As the Official Partner Country for the 2017 ITB Berlin, the spotlight was on Botswana.  On the eve of the five-day tourism trade fair, held from March 8 to 12 earlier this year, Botswana hosted the opening ceremony where the traditional music ensemble performed. 

Renowned for its beautiful flora and fauna, tourism, safaris and wildlife conservation projects, Botswana has positioned itself as one of the most attractive holiday destinations in Africa.

“For us as Botswana we are really honoured to have been able to partner with ITB Berlin. It is just unbelievable how this relationship between Botswana and ITB Berlin started. How far we got to where we are now, and obviously the exposure that Botswana received,” Minister of Environment, Conservation, Natural Resources and Tourism told international media at the March fair. 

Botswana has been part of the ITB Berlin since 2007. “BTO has been participating in ITB Berlin for the past 10 years and it is now the most popular show for our operators to attend with a record 32 local companies represented,” Khama told guests at GICC on Thursday. 

He said they had gone to the trade fair to get as much out of it for Botswana as possible and to share what they could with other countries.

He described being a partner to the ITB Berlin as a wonderful opportunity. 

“I think that was also demonstrated by the presentation and how our team performed, they really felt that they had received the warmth of Germany, Berlin and especially of ITB Berlin. That was such an emotional performance, you made us really proud ...This is only the beginning," Tshekedi said of the traditional ensemble’s performance at the opening ceremony. 

He said that guests at the ITB Berlin were also given an opportunity to experience Setswana cuisine. “The guests were treated by BTO to a traditional meal following the musical performance.” He said Botswana based chefs led the preparation of various delicacies like Seswaa and Phane. 

“Over 40kg of Phane, and 400kg of beef had been shipped to Berlin for the dinner. More than 10 000 exhibiting companies from 184 countries and regions displayed their products and services on 1 092 stands to visitors, according to Hospitalitynet.org. 

The global tourism industry exhibited its latest products and trends on an area covering 160 000 square meters. At the 51st edition of ITB Berlin the number of buyers in a decision making capacity was impressive. Two-thirds of trade visitors said they were directly authorised to buy travel products while 80 percent of the Buyers Circle members were able to make direct decisions and had more than half a million Euros at their disposal. 

Over one-third of the buyers present were able to spend more than P114 million.