In March 2017 the Botswana flag will high when the country makes its first appearance as official partner at the ITB Berlin. The ITB- Berlin has been described as the Mecca of the tourism industry and every year for the past 50 years exhibitors from all over the world convene in Berlin, Germany, for the event.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Standard at the recently held Botswana Tourism Organisation’s Botswana Travel and Tourism Expo (BTTE), ITB Corporate Social Responsibility representative Rika Jean-Francois indicated that the decision to partner with Botswana was made on April 1, 2016 after the last ITB.
Jean-Francois further stated that they hit the ground running and started the next ITBs promotion and marketing by showcasing Botswana as their next partner.
Botswana is said to be the first sub-Saharan African country to be chosen as an ITB partner since its conception 50 years ago. The magnitude of this event will boost the local tourism industry making Botswana a globally competitive destination which will be a plus for the country’s economy considering the income that stands to be generated through the industry which is already the second largest contributor to the country’s GDP.
Jean-Francois explained that Botswana being chosen as a partner did not come as a surprise when taking into consideration the tourism conservation in Botswana, citing the rhino protection and relocation, the zero tolerance on poaching and the overall best practices that Botswana has regarding tourism and conservation, culture and heritage.
The ITB is expected to run from March 8 to 12, 2017 and according to Executive Manager – Marketing of the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) Jillian Blackbeard, they were still in talks with the Office of the President for President Ian Khama to officially open the event. According to Blackbeard, at this event attendants will get to experience Botswana through traditional Setswana cuisine and beverages, dance and song by local artists and performers who will be flown in to showcase their talents to the ITB.
The ITB Conference at that evet will opened by the Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama.
The set-up will comprise of many stages with a large one at the centre where Batswana will make a presentation about their country. This conference will be a networking opportunity for local tour operations to learn and benchmark on how to run their organisations better and ultimately maximise their profits.
For the local tour operators to take part at this initiative, they had to send applications through BTO and be either residents or citizens of Botswana with valid operating licenses in order to join the 187 countries at the event. Operators can also apply directly as individuals. Blackbeard emphasised that BTO was particularly keen on community empowerment projects.
Jean-Francois stated that between the exhibitors, participants, visitors and private visitors there will be a total of approximately 180 000 people coming in and out of the ITB. The event takes place in a location that is 279 square metres with a total of 26 halls divided according region and the type of tourism that they participate in.
Consider the unique Okavango Delta, which intricately cuts through the centre of the Kalahari Desert and is a vast area and home to wildlife, bird species aquatic life.
Then there are the Tsodilo hills which have been adequately described as an outdoor art gallery and on display is over 4 000 ancient paintings which archeologists claim to be approximately 20 000 years old.
In the same breath there is the majestic Chobe National Park which is probably home to the widest variety of wildlife and is home to over 120 000 elephants among the big five and other fascinating animals. No wonder Botswana has been chosen as a partners at ITB-Berlin.