Government has allayed fears of any job losses as the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) assumes the roles that were previously done by the Botswana Tourism Board (BTB).
Parliament passed the Botswana Tourism Organisation Bill 2009 in December paving the way for the establishment of the new body that will tighten screws in the industry and benchmark on international standards.
Kitso Mokaila, the minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, told The Telegraph that it is business as usual for the industry as BTB is ‘winding’ itself into BTO.
“Botswana Tourism Board has confused many people. When you mentioned a board, people thought you are talking about directors,” explained Mokaila.
“We needed to separate the two,” he said. Mokaila stated that basically the move behind the Bill was to ‘pick up’ the standards and a name change.
BTO will perform the functions that were done by BTB although it will be tough on grading to match the country’s facilities with international ones.
BTB, on the other hand, was established by an Act of Parliament in 2004, with a mandate to market and promote Botswana as a Premier Tourism Destination of Choice, to Grade and Classify Accommodation Facilities, and promote Investment in the Tourism Sector.
Mokaila said when tourism board is repelled; the new body will thereby employ the old staff as their services are still needed.
“All rights, obligations, assets and liabilities, which have accrued to the Botswana Tourism Board in terms of the repealed Act shall, upon this Act coming into force, simultaneously pass and accrue to Botswana Tourism and be dealt with in terms of this Act,” reads a memorandum on Botswana Tourism Organisation Bill 2009.
BTO will be responsible for regulating the tourism industry and perform duties of marketing, promoting tourism attractions, to encourage and facilitate travel.
Key features of the changes as highlighted by Mokaila are where facilities will not be given lee way to better standards at their own pace.
The new body is given powers to take action against service providers that take time to improve standards.
The memorandum stated that the new body shall grade all tourist enterprises licensed under the Tourism Act and any person who operates an enterprise that is not graded in accordance with the Act commits an offence and is liable to a P20, 000 fine or imprisonment not exceeding 5 years.
If, after making all necessary inspections and investigations, the body is not satisfied that a tourist enterprise qualifies to be graded, it shall assign a symbol of ‘ungraded’.
A tourism enterprise may only operate on a grade symbol of ‘ungraded’ for 12 months after which it shall attain at least a one star grade.
A tourist enterprise which fails to attain at least a one star grade after 12 months of operating as ‘ungraded’ shall cease to operate as a tourist enterprise in line with requirements of the Tourism Act.
The new body will overall implement tourism marketing while promoting the establishment of joint tourist enterprise ventures between citizens and foreign investors.
An interesting aspect of the role of the new body is the development of and improving the existing tourism opportunities and diversifies the sector to include other forms of tourism such as cultural and heritage tourism, eco tourism, entertainment, recreational and leisure tourism.
Mauritius has been successful in the promotion of cultural tourism ahead of Botswana.
BTO will have a Board of Directors with representatives from ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, six members of the public and private sector who have the skill and competence relevant to the tourism industry.