Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Corruption is single biggest threat to tourism after Covid-19

Corruption at various levels threatens to reverse all the progress and gains that tourism sector had made prior to Covid-19.

We cannot overstate the importance of tourism to |Botswana’s economy.

Tourism is now the second biggest contributor to GDP after mining.

It also employs many people, 

More recently there have been attempts to reinvent Botswana Tourism Organisation. A full Board of Directors has been named.

This is the first time BTO has had a Board in many years.

For tourism watchers, this should bring some measure of relief.

That sector has seen a lot of confusion and carnage.

Covid-19 has been by far the worst killer of the sector.

The pandemic has indeed been an economic scourge.

But we should not deceive ourselves. Long before covid-19 set in, our tourism sector was already losing grip –  besieged by corruption, bad governance and also under-capitalisation.

What covid pandemic did was to plaster on the already existing bad issues and make us forget them because covid was by far worse than the problems we had prior.

With the appointment of the new Board we should express hope.

But we should also not get ahead of ourselves and say that a Board in place portends good governance.

In fact we should not even try to predict the future.

We are already at the end of November.

Yet the situation remains so fluid that its next to impossible to know what will be the situation by Christmas. 

Signs are that government will go into Christmas and spend a good part of early next yearly fighting a more contagious form of coronavirus.

This week much of the western world placed Botswana on a travel red list.

Once again, for the second year running tourism operators in Botswana will miss an opportunity to cash in on Christmas holiday season.

And that is a big deal given the volumes often related to the season – domestic and international. 

We should give them a chance.

But we should be awake to the fact that all over the place old corruption has been replaced by new corruption and the old corrupt guard has been replaced by the new.

BTO, we must point out has not had stability that goes way beyond the way its Board was summarily sacked some years back.

Save for a stint when Myra Sekgororoane was called to come and complete her tenure, the parastatal has also not had a substantive CEO.

That is unpardonable. Actually it is criminal. It would be foolhardy to just blame the Khama administration.

The current one has also showed some lack of focus on key areas.

The massacre of rhinos has been an indelible blight. But they have also had their priorities wrong.

Things will come clearer when concessions get awarded and as is so often the case with these matters, back to back deals get exposed.

This government came to power promising to take Batswana, indigenous Batswana to use their word into tourism.

There are hints of what will happen when concessions are finally awarded.

Now they are slowly moving away from that promise, in fact bluntly saying only people with wherewithal will be awarded the concessions that are due for award.

This walking back on promises made while  shocking is not the first. In fact for this government it is now in keeping with its kind.

In fact this persistent failure to honour promises is at the heart of growing disaffection with this government.

Once again Batswana will be left out.

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