Sunday, July 3, 2022

Botswana refuses to budge on single tourist visa

Botswana has again refused to join other countries in endorsing a single tourist visa (UNIVISA) for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member countries, citing issues of security concerns.

Unwillingness to endorse the UNIVISA is believed to be against the Protocol on Development of Tourism that was signed by SADC leaders in 1998. The Protocol calls on member states to make the travel of visitors as smooth as possible and remove practices that are likely to place obstacles in the way of regional and international travel and tourism.

Botswana maintained its position to refuse to endorse the UNIVISA at the just ended Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA) board meeting held in Botswana.

The single tourist visa┬áis expected to ease the movement of tourists who want to sample the region, a long haul destination for most of the world’s tourism-generating markets.

Professor Joseph Mbaiwa of the Okavango research Institute says Botswana’s position is a drawback considering at the revenue that could be brought by tourists.

“I don’t understand why the country is not endorsing the UNIVISA and joining other countries. They are talking about security but it is not clear what kind of the security,” said Mbaiwa.

He explained that the refusal was not a good idea because most of Southern African countries had established Transfrontier Parks (Peace Parks) to enable tourists to move in those hot spot areas they want.

Mbaiwa feared refusal to endorse the UNIVISA could result in loss of revenue for Botswana, as it would restrict the number of tourists streaming in.

“We are not aware why the security is raised here but maybe they are afraid that the number of tourists arrivals in the country could decline by joining other countries in endorsing the UNIVISA,” he added.

Mbaiwa likened the issue of refusal to endorse the UNIVISA to the issue of Britain’s refusal to use the Euro currency.

┬á“They continue using the British Pounds despite huge advantage of using Euro. We have our own belief┬árelated to security but the country stands to lose because tourists will choose to go to other SADC countries.”

RETOSA Executive Director, Francis Mfune, stated in an Economic Case study for SADC UNIVISA report that the process of establishing the system has taken a long time and it has been suggested that this could be because the process is managed by players from  outside the tourism sector who may not fully appreciate the positive impacts as SADC UNIVISA will have on regional tourism development as well as on the regional economies.

SADC countries that have started using UNIVISA include Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
RETOSA has emphasized that the UNIVISA will boost the tourism in the region because it will considerably facilitate the movement of tourists between the SADC countries.

Talks about UNIVISA have been ongoing for several years, and industry players are skeptical about the concept becoming a reality.

Earlier, Environment Minister, Kitso Mokaila, had reiterated the country’s stance against the UNIVISA.

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