Botswana’s bilateral Air Service Agreements, which are viewed as closed, are noted as one of the reasons why the country’s status as a tourism destination worldwide has reduced drastically.
Botswana is down 12 places from the last Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index where it was placed at the 79th spot worldwide, which now puts the country at position 91.
The announcement, made by the World Economic Forum through its annual Travel and Tourism Competitive Index 2011 Report, has put a damper in the country’s efforts to diversify its economy through its tourism. ┬á
Tourism is placed as the country’s largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after mining.
The report goes on to add that Botswana’s transport infrastructure is somewhat underdeveloped and thus unfavouarable for international tourists.
Companies in the local Tourism and hospitality sector have also recently called for an open sky policy and heavily criticised the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)’s current procedures, which they say is causing them to lose millions of pula because of the poor service rendered by the country’s airline.
Air Botswana is given priority over other airlines, especially when it comes to travelling to the northern parts of the country, where most of the country’s tourist destinations are focused.
It said that CAA’s decision not to allow 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.
Companies such as Chobe Holdings and Wilderness Safaris have of late lambasted the airline for its failure to deliver a remotely comparable service.
“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,” Jonathan Gibson, Managing Director of Chobe Holdings, said.
Meanwhile, Botswana is ranked number 5 within the Sub-Saharan region following after South Africa at position 2, Mauritius at position 1, Namibia at 3 and Cape Verde at 4. ┬á
SADC countries have of late noted that in order to improve their standing in the competitiveness index, they have to improve their air services as well as relinquish unnecessary visa requirements within the region. SADC countries have recently called for a single Airline and tourist Visa.
┬áThe single airline will aimed at making air travel the cheapest means of transport within the region, Mail and Guardian reports. SADC has 15 member countries.
M&G quotes Bradah Mungunidze, Chairman of the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA) when he said that, ‘tourism in the region was impended by the lack of reliable air transport.
“Apart from South-Africa, other countries in the region have small airlines that are susceptible to global economic fluctuations,” said the chairman. ┬á┬á┬á
The report also said that the tourism sector in Botswana needs to improve its low hotel room concentration, low presence of international rental car companies, as well as increase its few ATMs.
On a positive note, however, the country is ranked 33rd out of all countries for its beautiful national parks, 6th for its national protected land area and lack of environmental damage. ┬á
The country also benefits from excellent price competitiveness, where it is ranked8thbecauseof low ticket taxes and airport charges, a favorable tax regime, and low prices more generally.
In addition, some aspects of the policy environment are supportive of the sector’s development, including well protected property rights and few visa restrictions.