With its diamonds being mined out, Botswana could still make a lot more money from tourism if its tourist bookings were done locally. Currently, that is not happening and the result is that leakages of foreign revenues from tourism amount to over 70 percent.
The African Natural Resources Centre (ANRC), whose director is a Motswana, thinks that it has an answer to that problem.
“The issue of leakage can be addressed over time by empowering more locally-owned businesses to operate, including the development of Botswana’s tour operators and booking agents. Fiscal measures can also be taken to encourage re-investment rather than repatriation of profits. Re-investment of profits in wildlife concession areas is however constrained by the 15 year leases,” says a report that the ANRC has just put out.
In the not-too-distant past, the Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) did a study on tourism leakages. It found that while foreign earnings from tourism were “substantial”, the leakage was also very high.
“A collaborative research work paper conducted by AfDB, the OECD Development Centre and UNDP indicates that this is partly because the bulk of Botswana’s tourist bookings are handled in South Africa. At the same time, Botswana’s tourism sector supply chain is foreign-dominated, which is said to be contributing to the loss of revenue. Tourism is however a major employer and without it, Botswana would be a much poorer country,” says the ANRC report which is titled “Maximising Benefits from Water for Tourism in Africa”.
Once before in parliament, the former vice president, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, told of a personal experience with Botswana’s tourism sector. The parliamentary committee that he was a member of at the time was planning a visit to a tourist resort in the Tuli Block area. When the support staff at the National Assembly called to make book accommodation, it was told to call a South African telephone number.
ANRC says that while it is recognised that high standards of luxury demanded in international tourism often require imported goods, there are opportunities for import substitution if both buyers and sellers can become more aware of market needs.
“All of these complexities indicate the need for Botswana to strengthen its triple bottom line approach to tourism development planning and tourism management. This means that benefits and disbenefits from tourism must be considered in depth for the economy, the environment and for local society,” the report says.
A non-lending entity of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the ANRC was established in November 2013 to bring additional expertise and services to the Bank and its regional member countries (RMCs) – like Botswana. Its current director is Sheila Khama, the former Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Botswana, who supervised the editorial team that put the report together. The former CEO of the Botswana Tourism Organisation, Myra Sekgororoane, was one of the three peer reviewers.