Tour operators this week angrily blamed the national air carrier for bad representation in the eyes of the travelers as their profits staggered in a year that was expected to have brought a windfall in the regional tourism industry.
“As noted before, perhaps the biggest single challenge the tourism industry faces within Botswana remains the often substandard service rendered by Air Botswana, the only scheduled air carrier allowed to service the tourist in the northern Botswana.
“This situation has been further exacerbated by the discontinuance of the direct Johannesburg/ Maun/ Johannesburg route, occasioned by our Civil Aviation Authority’s refusal to allow foreign-based airlines to compete with Air Botswana on this route thus necessitating an en-route diversion and stop in Gaborone,” Chobe Holdings said in its unaudited results to August 31, this year.
The company saw its revenue jumping up from P 56 million to P 61 million while profit after tax slowed down to P 15.5 million compared to P 17 million in the corresponding period last year. Further, the company sold 20 773 beds or 39n percent occupancy rate in the last six months against 18 918 during the same period a year agoÔÇögiving it confidence that the economic upturn might be around the corner.
Some of the challenges that Chobe Holdings faced during the six months included the turbulence in the US dollar exchange that has been weakening against the regional currenciesÔÇönamely the pula and the rand.
The non tariff barrier imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority in the sense of not allowing foreign based airline permit to fly direct route to the northern parts of the country has resulted in chaos and nightmares to the international holidaymakers who are not used to substandard service like the one offered by Air Botswana.
“As the majority of our clients access or depart via the traditional gateway of Maun, this factor has further added to delays, costs and travelers’ inconvenience. The carriage of tourists in and out of Botswana is vital part to whole Botswana experience package tourist’s purchase. Four and five star offering remain seriously compromised by our national carrier’s failure to deliver a remotely comparable service,” Jonathan Gibson, Managing Director of Chobe Holdings said.
The tourism industry is the second largest contributor to the Gross National Product (GDP) after the mining industry-especially diamonds. The industry is heavily concentrated in the northern parts of the country due to the lure of wildlife and wilderness.
Chobe Holdings, which was joined by Wilderness Safaris in condemning Air Botswana’s poor service clamoured for an open sky policy that will inevitably takeout the national carrier.
“The tourism industry is a net contributor to government revenues in the form of park fees, lease rentals, resource royalties, Valued Added Tax, corporate and other taxes whilst Air Botswana has on more occasions than not been a net user of government revenue,” Gibson added.
He said the country as a whole will benefit profoundly from a fully implemented open sky policy within which “Air Botswana should and can be a competitor”.
Further, the company stated that its operations in the Caprivi Strip have not yet improved due to the authorities in that country’s lack of interest in wildlife issues. The situation has lead the company to take P 1.3 million write-down because it has become difficult to market the operations. Namibians around that area are notorious for poaching.