Monday, January 17, 2022

Botswana Tourism shaken by protests at London’s World Travel Market exhibition

Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) Chief Executive Officer, Myra Sekgororoane, on Monday warned that calls by Survival International for a boycott travel by tourists to Botswana over alleged persecution of Basarwa by the Botswana Government is not good for the country.
Sekgororoane was responding to reports that campaigners at the ongoing World Travel Market (WTM) exhibition in London were handing out leaflets to travel industry professionals urging visitors to support a boycott by London based human rights organisation.
┬áThe World Travel Market, which opened at London’s Excel Centre on Monday, features a stand by BTO ÔÇô eager to encourage tourists to visit the country.
In an interview on Monday, Sekgororoane expressed concern that while Botswana was exhibiting as usual and promoting tourism at the WTM all week, “any negative publicity is not good” for the country.
“We are exhibiting as usual at the WTM. We have got 26 Botswana exhibitors under Botswana stand. It is not for the first time that Survival International has launched a tourism boycott at WTM. But what I can say is that any negative publicity is not good,” she said.
Sekgororoane added that “such campaign is distractive because you need to focus on the exhibition and not on other issues by having to explain to exhibitors things other than what your exhibition should focus on.”
Asked what they have done to counter Survival International’s campaigns which she described as distractive, Sekgororoane said they have forwarded a letter from the Botswana Government to their tour operators to give them “our side of the story.”
On the ongoing protests at WTM, the BTO CEO said, “I didn’t travel to London for the exhibition. I will be able to make an informed decision tomorrow (Tuesday) and that is when I will write to our tour operators.” ┬á
Survival International says the Botswana Government is driving Basarwa off their ancestral land by preventing them from hunting.
Many are being required to apply for permits to visit their families.
The protestors claim this practice is akin to controversial pass laws designed to control the movement of black Africans and which effectively separated black families under apartheid South Africa.
Since Survival launched its boycott in September, it says thousands of travellers have pledged not to visit Botswana until the government upholds the Basarwa’s right to freely access the reserve (Central Kalahari game Reserve).
Travel companies Travelpickr, Horizonte Paralelo and Annie Bulmer Travel have joined the boycott.
Bulmer said: “We’re saddened and shocked to hear that Botswana’s Basarwa are being chased out of their reserve by the government.
“The Botswana tourism board would have tourists believe that the Basarwa are one of the country’s greatest assets, but it seems soon there will be no Botswana left.
“Annie Bulmer Travel will not be sending tourists to Botswana until its indigenous residents are treated with dignity and respect.”
Survival Director Stephen Corry said: “Botswana continues to market tourism to foreign visitors using the iconic image of bushman hunters.
“It’s somewhat ironic given that the government is wilfully pushing the tribe to the brink of destruction.
“If the government wants our boycott to end, it simply has to uphold Basarwa rights.”

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