The next two years are going to be hard for the diamond dependent economy because of the global financial crisis and Botswana has been advised to step up training in the tourism industry to prepare for a changed world.
The Vice Chairman of the Botswana Tourism Board, Keith Vincent, said this week that it is up to the industry to take the challenge now and grow the sector.
“(Because of the crisis) people have less money and they expect to pay less but for a better service. We have got to lead and we need to train,” said Vincent.
“I have traveled around the world and I think Botswana has a better chance to compete. We cannot count on diamonds forever,” he added.
Since the collapse of Hyundai, tourism is the second revenue earner for government after diamonds, contributing between 10-16 percent of the non mining GDP.
Since 2006, the industry has made P2 billion as compared to the beef industry that made less than P500 million.
“Tourism is a great employer and we need to grow it and take advantage,” said Vincent.
To prepare for the future world, the Botswana Tourism Board has set up the Tourism Industry Training Fund to provide training for staff in the industry, especially those in the frontline.
Vincent revealed that there are also plans to establish Tourism Schools of Excellence.
According to the latest World Economic Forum 2009 report, Botswana has improved in Travel and Travel Index having moved up from 87 in 2008 to position 79 in 2009.
The report indicates Botswana occupies position 13 in the rest of Africa, but falling short of best tourism addresses, Mauritius and South Africa.
Vincent explained that the ranking could have been higher if they were sweetened by outstanding customer service on top of natural features that Botswana have.
Five of the 12 top lodges in the world are said to be found in the Botswana wilderness and the country is ranked number 9 in competitive pricing.
However, the report indicated that the country still lags behind in general infrastructure, amongst them telecommunications and sanitary facilities provided in the Botswana highways, like the Trans Kalahari or A1.
Transport infrastructure is also a concern, unlike other competitors, like South Africa where there are international flights for long haul tourists.
Tourists visiting Botswana have to make their connections at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport where theft is rampant.