There is no doubt that Botswana’s tourism industry has been ruined and laid to waste by covid-19.The effects on this sector started long before the first lockdown was declared. This is because covid-19 started abroad, in china to be specific. And China is a big travel market. By the time effects came to Botswana, the Chinese had long stopped travelling. The tourism sector has suffered a lot. Yet ironically, there has never been a greater time than now for Batswana to explore their country especially those parts of it that that have for various reasons been out of bounds. The current circumstances make it easier for Batswana to get to know their country. For a long time, Botswana’s tourism players – never citizens to start with – have concentrated their efforts on luring international travelers. This saw the industry hire marketing consultants in the United States, Europe, Dubai, China and in Japan.
A few countries in southern Africa have either opened or have announced when their international travel will resume. Botswana is yet to make similar announcements. But there remain impediments to international travel. It comes with conditions, key of which is a verifiable coronavirus test. In some countries mandatory quarantines upon arrival remain in place. Botswana’s numbers are currently rising. That alone is a big issue for anybody planning to come in. So, tourist operators have got to do with what they have, which is domestic tourism. There is already an impetus on the ground for Batswana to travel inside their country. That impetus is not new. But the lockdown occasioned by coronavirus has taken it to new levels. Of course, there is still a downside. Not all restaurants have opened. And owners are grappling with the efficacy and viability of opening under the ongoing rules and protocols. Batswana are in unprecedented numbers considering becoming domestic tourists in the coming Christmas Holidays.
The tourism sector has been badly decimated by coronavirus. Operators, especially small one need money in their pockets or else many of them will be lost forever. Botswana needs clarity on the recovery. Absence of a clear plan impedes major decision making in the private sector where companies are hording cash because they do not know how the future looks like. Lives and livelihoods are at stake. Botswana Tourism Organisation should actively help local tourist outfits. The biggest way to do that is to meet them halfway in their marketing efforts.