Saturday, July 31, 2021

Covid-19 sponsored Tourism sector losses pegged at P6 billion

Botswana’s tourism industry is projected to have lost over P6 billion since the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic in early 2020. 

Permanent Secretary at the Tourism Ministry – Dr Oduetse Koboto recently told the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee that the accumulated losses also include job losses. 

Botswana’s first reported positive case of Covid 19 in March 2020 resulted in closure of tourism enterprises. By the end of April 2020 – when more cases were being reported, atleast 90.7 percent of the facilities were closed and only 9.3 were open to guests. 

The country also closed 21 ports of entry out of a total of 31 with the 10 remaining ports strictly open for trucks delivering essential goods into the country. 

In April 2020, state owned Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) estimated that the total revenue loss will be in the billions of Pula due to cancellations and postponements of bookings which were anticipated at that time.  

Meanwhile ongoing vaccines rollout remains the pillar of hope for the sector’s recovery but challenges remain, with the sector expected to remain in survival mode until head immunity. 

“With the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine, we expect an accelerated recovery of the tourism sector as movement restrictions, both locally and internationally, are eased out,” Koboto told the PAC last week.

He also said that tourism Ministry has revised the Agro-Tourism guidelines to promote utilisation of agricultural land for tourism purposes. The revised guidelines were launched in June 2020 in a bid to facilitate the development of tourism in agricultural land. 

Koboto told PAC that the revision of the Agro-Tourism guidelines will amongst other things, encourage Batswana to utilise their land for other income generating activities and to promote citizen participation in the tourism industry. It has also emerged that to date there are 7 licensed Agro-Tourism operators with 15 more operators set to be licensed. 

In both 2020 and 2021 the domestic tourism has been helping to mitigate the impact on jobs and businesses in some destinations in the northern part of the country. However, pundits maintain that real recovery will only be possible when international tourism returns. 

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