Cresta Marakanelo, the country’s leading hotel chain, has praised the contribution of Kitso Mokaila to the tourism sector during his tenure as a minister.
Mokaila left the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism for the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources last month in a controversial cabinet reshuffle that saw the appointment of political rookie, Tshekedi Khama, as his replacement.
“We are here to acknowledge the contribution of Mokaila to the tourism industry,” Cresta MD, Tawanda Makhaya, said on Thursday at a diner to honour the minister. “His open policy has served us well.”
Makhaya praised Mokaila for coming up with initiatives like (Tourism) Pitso, which has now been adopted by other government ministries; the creation of Botswana Tourism Organisation and classification of tourism facilities.
The hope in the industry is that he will continue with unfinished business at his new ministry, including issues like diesel rebate and water problems.
Mokaila, who has been at the helm of the ministry for eight years, admitted that he came at a time when racism was an issue in the high economic rents and protectionist sector.
“When I came, the industry was known to be racist,” Mokaila said, adding the challenge was to bring the players together. The reality was seen on his 2005 visit to the camps, especially in the northern part of the country.
“It became obvious to me that there was a problem. The problem with the industry is that businesses have their interests at heart, but when government acts, it must serve the interest of government and public good.”
However, his tenure also came with controversies, including the US $5 million investment in The Number 1 Ladies Detective agency movie or Mma Ramotswe.
The minister again defended the move saying the 2.1 million tourism arrivals the country is experiencing should be attributed to the exposure created by the movie.
Botswana earns P5 billion from about two million foreign tourists and over P1 billion from one million locals annually.
The movie was criticised as the country’s PR exercise that failed to promote the local film industry. Mokaila leaves the ministry at a time when the industry is failing to diversify. The country relies heavily on brand Okavango Delta.
Tourism is currently centred around the north of the country with initiatives like Destination Gaborone failing to take off. “The strategy is to try and diversify in terms of locality and product.”
Botswana’s tourism is dependent on the abundant wildlife resources and wilderness, which are concentrated in the northern part of the country.