Sunday, September 19, 2021

Botswana’s hospitality industry faces economic abyss as liquor ban, curfew continues

Botswana’s hospitality industry is facing continuous difficulty after President Mokgwetsi Masisi on Friday extended the restriction on movement from 31st January to the 28th February 2021 amid feared rising number of COVID 19 cases in the country. 

The government said in December 2020 – when the first curfew was announced that the move is necessary to curb the spread of COVID 19. 

Following the Friday announcement the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) – which exist to promote, encourage and police excellence in hospitality and tourism sector in the country is expected to issue a statement and express its concern on the ‘lack’ of balancing between saving lives and livelihoods. The association is also expected to air its displeasure on the lack of consultation by the Botswana government when drastic decisions such as the introduction of national curfew and the suspension of liquor sales are imposed. 

Already the private sector mouthpiece – Business Botswana has lambasted the government for failure to consult. 

“It has just been brought to our attention through Social Media platforms that the Government has extended the curfew to 28th February 2021. It is regrettable that there was no consultation in the decision to extend. Furthermore restrictions on the alcohol continue alongside the curfew. We are concerned and worried as private sector about impact that this is going to have on businesses in the sector and the economy”, reads part of the Business Botswana statement released late Friday. 

Business Botswana says it is of the view that consideration should have been made for the alcohol trade to continue in a restricted manner. 

“This would mean that the sale of alcohol could be made through takeaways, deliveries as well as in sit down restaurants at least to keep the sector alive. Business Botswana requests Government to reconsider” – said Business Botswana President, Gobusamang Keebine on Friday. 

Still on Friday, HATAB Chief Executive – Lily Rakorong told Sunday Standard on Friday that a combination of the 2020 national lockdowns, the recent night curfews, alcohol sales ban and a downturn in customer confidence has hit the country’s hospitality industry with some companies expected to shut down their doors soon. 

Rakorong said the decision by the government to suspend the outsourcing of conference and workshops venues and the temporary ban of official trips for government officials since the beginning of the year has had a negative impact on the hospitality industry. 

“What further complicates the situation is the fact that even the casual travellers appetite has gone down due to the ban on liquor. They know they cannot dine and wine during a weekend getaway given the liquor sales ban”, Rakorong said. 

HATAB estimates that at the moment, most hotels and other accommodation resorts sits at an occupancy rate of three percent. 

“Some restaurants have informed us that they now do not have other option but to implement the no-work, no-pay policy on some of their staff members”.  

Still this week, the country’s leading beer brewing company – Kgalagadi Breweries limited said that following the alcohol sale ban imposed at the beginning of 2021 it has taken a decision to completely suspend its operations from 25th January 2021. 

“From 25th January 2021, only a minimal number of critical roles will continue to be staffed, and all other operational activity will stop. As per the Government Gazette, the alcohol ban is expected to end on 31st January 2021; however, should the ban be extended past this date, suspension of operations will continue”, reads part of the KBL statement released this past week.

The operational company, whose parent company – Sechaba Holdings is listed at the local bourse – BSE says it has also met with suppliers to align with them that due to the current situation it will suspend payments as of 6th February 2021, up for review pending the outcome of the current alcohol ban. 

KBL says it understands the impact this will have on the overall supply chain and those whose livelihoods depend on the beer industry and requests their understanding.

The beer company says it is regrettable that the latest total ban on alcohol sales has resulted in the suspension of its operations, which will remain in place for as long as the alcohol ban persists. 

It also noted that it continues its efforts to engage government on the issue, which is having an enormous impact on the industry and its extensive value chain.

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