Myra Sekgororone, the Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Tourism Board (BTB), said that the mandate of the BTB as established by an Act of Parliament of 2004, but which only become operational last year, is to aggressively market Botswana as a tourist destination of choice to local, regional and international markets.
Sekgororone said to do so, the BTB has to diversify Botswana’s tourism portfolio from the conventional attractions of wildlife and natural beauty to other geographic locations as well as other tourism products beyond wildlife and the wilderness.
Gaborone is the main place that provides an opportunity to diversify Botswana products to other geographic areas.
The question is: what is BTB doing to make Gaborone a suitable tourism destination?
In an interview with The Sunday Standard, Sekgororone revealed that there are initiatives that have been instituted to develop Gaborone into a tourist’s destination that can compete well with other international tourists’ cities.
According to Sekgororone, the Government has commissioned a development project which will look at ways to develop Gaborone into a desirable tourist destination.
“The BTB is a major stakeholder in this initiative which we regard as a step in the right direction,” she said. “Batswana should know that it is not the role of the Government alone to be always developing.” She added that there are certain things in tourism that the government should lend a hand in, for instance, Air transportation, roads and access to different utilities.
Sekgororone highlighted that it is the BTB’s function to market and grow Botswana internationally.
“We have an initiative whereby various travel wholesalers from around the world are invited for familiarization trips in Botswana to sample our tourist product,” she stated, adding that this helped to empower them to sell our destination more confidently.
“We also promote investment in the tourism sector and still believe this sector has a lot of potential. The development has to be done hand in hand with other sectors,” she said.
Commenting on air access in Botswana, she pointed out that it is not conducive to the long term development of inbound tourism, and said this also limits them as BTB.
“For instance, we don’t have entry point and exit point gates to overseas market, and there are many benefits that can be derived from tourists visiting,” she said. She explained that when tourists get to a country, they buy things that they are going to use and always use taxis to go to their hotels. When they leave, she said, they always utilize their change from local currency and buy souvenirs as presents for their families.
“By not having some control, we lose benefits of the two,” she added.
Sekgororone pointed out that there are currently limits on how easily one can avail business and conference markets prevailing in Gaborone.
“What we would like as BTB is pre-market before visitors arrive in Gaborone,” she said. “We would like them to come earlier so that they can have time to tour Gaborone and its surroundings before they start whatever business they are here for.”
As for the restaurants, Sekgororone emphasized that they tend to be led by the type of market they are receiving.
“They have a tendency of focusing on market that they have at the moment. This is one sector that responds quickly once the market is there,” she said.
Right now what is happening is that Gaborone’s development as it is now, influences the variety of food and beverages, entertainment, and access to ground transportation.
“Once the volume comes, all is going to be changed, and we will see many entrepreneurs emerging. Batswana tend to wait and respond after recognizing the opportunity,” she stated.
She said that Botswana leisure packages have been excluding Gaborone.
“As BTB responsibility, we saw to it that Gaborone was included in these packages so as to increase volume in our familiarization trips.”
She explained that what they do is to invite influential people, for instance, media people, to Botswana, saying the reason behind this is to encourage these visitors to assist in selling Botswana.
“So far we have managed to put together tours that these people have found interesting. When they arrive in their countries they write very beautiful articles about their stay in Botswana and these articles include expose’ of the days spent in Gaborone.
On October 7th, Studio 53, a 30-minute MNET Magazine programme, aired an episode which featured places to visit in Botswana. Among the conventional tourist destinations, such as the Tuli Block, Chobe and Ngamiland, Sekgororone said that Gaborone was also highlighted.
“This was an initiative by the BTB to target and reach local and regional markets, given the coverage that MNET enjoys in Africa,” she explained.
Sekgororone revealed that the Gaborone City Council (GCC) currently involves a consultant to work with them on development in Gaborone. She said as BTB, they are interested in the GCC consultancy so as to help and make them aware of those things that need to be improved.