She proclaims an esteemed declaration that she is the destination of choice but Botswana pales in comparison to her sub-regional counterparts to earn the coveted spot in the Top 10 African destinations.
The 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report indicates that Botswana improved in ranking moving three places to sit at 85 from 88 in 2015, but the ground it has gained still did not edge her closer to the Top 10 rank.
According to the report South Africa still hogs the number one spot in the region, sitting at 53 globally indicating, however, that it is five spots down that it was in 2015.
“Sub-Saharan Africa showcases South Africa (53rd), Mauritius (55th), Kenya (80th) and Namibia (82nd) as its four most T&T competitive economies,” cites the report.
The devil that Botswana fights is her infrastructural immaturity, the demon she still struggles to be delivered from. In fact the report emphasises from a broader perspective that air connectivity and travel costs remain challenges, an observation that hits home in the case of Botswana.
The drawback of infrastructure is indicated in the 2017 report as it was in the 2015 report which actually articulates the challenge more aptly. “Botswana has a strong price competitiveness advantage (14th), a relatively conducive business environment (36th) and better safety and security levels (84th) than many peers.
“However, infrastructures are not well developed, also compared to neighbouring South Africa and Namibia. Ground transport (105th) attains a somewhat lower score, and air and tourist service infrastructures (91st) also need significant upgrades. The limited air service impacts the country’s connectedness and actual degree of openness (118th),” the 2015 according to that report.
It proposed long term infrastructural development which it said can significantly improve the country’s T&T competitiveness.
The World Tourism rankings compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) cited in their 2013 report the full list of top 10 African destinations and in that list was South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe considered Botswana’s direct competitors.
This is because the three southern African countries have been observed to offer a similar landscape of products as Botswana does. At the number one spot was Morocco and South Africa had treaded behind it at second place.
Zimbabwe missed the top 5 list by just one spot and had come in at number six. Namibia almost did not make into the list by one spot from the tail at number nine with the tenth spot occupied by Senegal. Botswana did not make the list.
The top 10 countries had during 2013 cut themselves a decent share of the total international tourist arrival pie which had been at 55.7 million, suggesting that Botswana gobbled only but crumbs of it.
Closely related is that the 2017 report forecasts passenger numbers to reach 1.8 million by 2030 out of a global population of 8.5 billion people. The 2015 T&T competitiveness report had specifically highlighted the richness of natural resources in Botswana but also emphasised that the cultural resources are not well leveraged with very few oral and intangible practices recognised worldwide.
Perhaps the biggest contradiction Botswana contends with is that of the international tourist arrivals against the international tourism receipts.
The UNWTO report demonstrates the trend between 1995 and 2013. Up to 2007 the two moved in tandem and the receipts were more than the arrivals. A sharp decline of receipts occurred in 2007 and set a new imploded trend of receipts through to 2013, which left a gaping hole between them and tourist arrivals.
In fact since then the two move in a divergent direction, with tourists arrivals on an upward trend moving further from receipts which are stuck at the trough.
Commentators posit that the increase of tourist arrivals against declining receipts reflect the place of origin of the tourists which in the recent past has been largely from the African region as opposed to overseas.
The 2017 report sheds light on this view by stating that “while tourism in Europe and, more recently, Asia has been fuelled by intra-regional travel, data reveals that, on average, African tourists spend a tenth of what an overseas tourist would spend.” This suggests that the regional tourists that visit Botswana spend much less than international tourists from overseas. As a destination of choice Botswana ought to outdo its regional counterparts and appeal to tourists all over the world to demonstrate that it is the obvious selection.