There are fears that the recent reports about more than 80 elephants allegedly killed by poachers have the potential to affect the number of tourists that visit Botswana’s tourism destinations.
Botswana Tourism Origination (BTO) government parastatal company tasked with promoting the tourism industry in the country this week expressed concern the story may impact negatively on the economy and tourism industry.
Tourism is the second earner of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after diamonds. Elephant Without Borders two weeks back was quoted by the international media claiming that there is rampant poaching in the country that saw 87 elephants killed near Okavango delta wildlife sanctuary.
The claims which were dismissed by the government as false were made by Mike Chase the director of Elephant without Borders who was contracted by the government conducting a survey on elephant population.
In an interview with the Sunday Standard Newspaper the BTO’s communications manager, Keitumetse Setlang said the reports has potential of tarnishing and destroying the image of the country.
Asked what her organisation response to the story was as the custodians of tourism industry in the country, she said “BTO will always be concerned about any report on poaching and any report for that matter that may portray the country in bad light.”
Setlang warned the public and all authorities when issuing statements that due diligence must be considered at all times when communication is done implicating the country and its resources.
She observed that the country has been receiving good number of tourists and any negative report can impact on the number because tourist prior visiting the country consider many factors and when bad stories are said it will impact on the number of people visiting and ending hammering the growth of the economy.
“Botswana has been attracting an increasing number of discerning eco based tourists who in addition to activities by a tourism destination would particularly choose destinations based on their conservation and preservation principles, and the industry’s benefit to the people among others. This type of a traveler is therefore bound to be impacted upon by such reports,” Setlang said.
She further explained that the other factor considered is safety, and therefore the alleged poaching would unsettle some travelers.
“We are confident though that our long term safety and security track record as a destination has sustained us and will sustain us even during this time. We have been able to address some of the glaring issues that were raised by tourism operators locally and internationally as a matter of urgency and this have helped to avert far-reaching negative feedback and adverse implications” Setlang.
Asked if tourists are safe in the country or should they fear for their lives because of “perceived poaching” she said the tourists are safe and have always been safe in Botswana. According to her, tourist should continue feeling safe and be assured of the usual peace and tranquility synonymous with the Botswana tourism product offering.
BTO mouthpiece encouraged local and inbound travelers to continue visiting the various tourist attractions and destination in Botswana to support the country’s drive to improve the lives of the people and conservation of the product, through tourism revenue.
On BTO strategy to maintain/bring confidence on both local and international tourists after the story that is perceived negative she said BTO has been able to successfully position the country well for the global tourism market, instilling confidence in the destination and its products. “This has been able to sustain the destination well through similar unforeseen circumstances. We do not expect an immediate drop in numbers as Botswana’s booking lead time is long. A tourism product tends to be resilient and would eventually bounce back, once answers are given on specific issues” she explained.
Though the minister Tshekedi Khama’s position on the story differed with the government statement, Setlang believes that the statement that was issued by the permanent secretary Thato Raphaka has helped to avert far reaching effects.
BTO is expected to continue with its strategies that have ensured that Botswana is seen as a destination of choice in terms of tourism. BTO want the country and its tourism to be viewed in a positive light and continues to be a desirable safe destination.