Sunday, July 3, 2022

Botswana looks to tourism sector to ‘heal’ the economy

KASANE – Botswana’s economy is expected to get a boost from an improved tourism industry that has been on a strong recovery following a poor run in 2021 and early 2020, thanks largely to the Covid 19 pandemic.

But now with a lot of restrictions set aside, the sector is seen as the next big thing after the minerals sector. Minister responsible for tourism – Philda Kereng says the sector has been leading the country in terms of recovery and setting standards for a post Covid 19 trade.

Speaking at the annual Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) conference held on Friday, Kereng said the while tourism sector was severely affected by the Covid 19 pandemic it has since found its foot and that there are signs of recovery  with multiple efforts to broaden out beyond the flora and fauna that have been the sector’s bread and butter.

“The capacity to recover and start running again has been built”, said Kereng.

Not only that, Kereng further credited Covid 19 for broadening Botswana’s tourism sector beyond flora and fauna which she says would add to the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP.

“There is a tourist that emerged form Covid 19”, said Kereng before describing it as a ‘healing’ sector. She added that following the Covid 19 sponsored movement restrictions, the domestic tourism registered some growth.

“People wanted to engage in activities that are beyond traditional tourism.”

For many years now economic diversification has become a mantra adopted by Botswana as the pitfalls of an overreliance on minerals, chiefly diamonds becomes more and more clear.

The Government has so far spent a fortune in its efforts at diversifying the economy from diamonds and there has been very little to show for it.

Official figures show that tourism contributed 13.1 percent of Botswana’s GDP in 2019, increasing from 6.3 percent in 2000. On the jobs side, by 2019 the travel and tourism accounted for 8.9 percent of total employment in the country with principal tourist attractions being game reserves, wildlife, and wilderness.

Besides the dominance of Southern African countries visiting Botswana, the landlocked country seems to be a firm favourite for American, German and UK travellers. According to the latest Tourism arrivals data shared by Statistics Botswana on Friday, the top three overseas countries accounted for 61.5 percent (12,291) of the top ten overseas countries, these being the United States with 26.6 percent (5,313), Germany, 17.6 percent (3,518) and the United Kingdom with 17.3 percent (3,460).

The top ten countries which provided tourists from the SADC Sub-continent. Tourists residing in the top ten SADC countries made up 90.4 percent (323,957) of the total tourists during the year under review. South Africa and Zimbabwe were the major contributors at 43.5 percent (140,816) and 34.6 percent (112,150) of tourists from the region, respectively.

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