The absence of the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) at recently held Tourism Expo Botswana was condemned by the international exhibitors.
The annual event, which is aimed at enticing the local consumer market and empowering the local trade, had five international exhibitors only with no local participation. The exhibitors were drawn from as far as Zimbabwe, Zambia, India, Iran and South Africa.
The exhibitors were equally keyed up for the expo but the absence of the BTO made them to feel left out. BTO’s absence did not only shock the exhibitors but the minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama.
It is BTO’s 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.
“I am disappointed because I was not even aware that BTO was not participating more so that BTO is the country’s organisation tasked with marketing the travel and tourism sector,” said Khama.
He added that the Tourism Expo Botswana is a noble initiative by one of the youths and it would make good sense if the tourism organization was present to prop up the efforts.
Khama said the absence of local exhibitors is a sign of shortsightedness. “If we don’t step up to the mark to market our country no one will do it for us,” he said.
In an interview with Mehrdad Malekzadeh the head of the Iran Cultural Center, he applauded efforts by Tourism Expo Botswana saying this would help brand the country as well as attract more foreign direct investment. “The idea is good; if it is well nurtured it can grow,” he said
Malekzadeh said the absence of their embassy in Botswana makes it totally impossible for them to open their center like what they have done in other countries.
However, he expressed concern on the absence of BTO saying it could have been a good experience if BTO was here to showcase what Botswana has to offer.
“We are here as international exhibitors in Botswana; we will return to our different countries with no knowledge of what Botswana has to offer. We had come here to see and share abilities so that we can work together with Botswana,” said Malekzadeh.
The Sharks Board from South Africa was also present at the exhibition which they described as unique and could help position Africa in the global market.
Precious Shamase, the Public relations officer at Sharks Board, said what’s amiss is that there are no local exhibitors “even the national tourism board is not here”.
“We are here to learn and share with Botswana, unfortunately no one is here to share with us not even BTO,” she said.
In the same vein, the Chief Executive Officer at Sharks Board, Mthokozisi Radebe, lashed out at BTO for being unpatriotic.
“Why is the country’s tourism board not here? This is a clear sign the organization is unpatriotic. The Botswana minister had to stand behind the Zambia tourism board banner as if he is promoting Zambia,” said Radebe. He added that the organization had let down the country.
“I’m here as a CEO of our board in South Africa, I expected to be welcomed by BTO but there is no one,” said Radebe.
The representatives from Zambia, Zimbabwe and India shared the same sentiments with the rest of their counterparts.
The founding CEO, Alimah Anderson, was impressed with the growth of the expo. She, however, said the absence of locals at the expo would not discourage her. Commenting on the absence of BTO, Anderson said she had extended the invitation and did not have an answer as to why they didn’t participate.
“We have a clear mandate that of marketing our country and building our brand which I believe compliments the work of BTO,” said Anderson.
BTO was not available to comment on the matter.