KASANE – The Chairman of the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) Dr Thapelo Matsheka has raised concerns about┬áthe level of secrecy in the country’s second revenue earner, tourism sector.
Dr Matsheka warned that if left unattended the issue of high unpredictability and lack of transparency will dent investor confidence. To demonstrate his case, Matsheka gave an example about the establishment of a land bank in the sector, for which Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) was tasked in 2008.
When addressing the first session of the tenth parliament of Botswana in 2009, President Ian Khama assured the nation that his government remains committed to ensuring that local communities are involved in and derive direct benefits from sustainable use of local resources. For some time now, the tourism industry has been hampered by lack of readily available land. To address this problem; in 2009 the government announced that it will set up tourism “Land Bank” with the support of the Ministry of Lands and Housing, in order to make land readily available for tourism development.┬á
“In 2008, the Ministry of Wildlife and Tourism through the BTO sought to establish a land bank of all concession areas which would allow government to directly influence allocation as well as utilisation through competitive bid of the management plans for both existing operators and the broader market. This was intended to access the true market value and potential of concession areas. Regrettably this has been caught up in unclear allocation criteria and as we speak a number of concession areas remain without a decision of whether to renew for existing operators with the resultant uncertainty to roll out expansion plans by existing operators”, Matsheka said.
Apart from the land bank, Matsheka says in 2011, HATAB compiled and submitted a report entailing a list of impediments that affect business operations in the tourism sector to the government of Botswana but to date no action has been taken.
“As we meet this morning these issues remain unresolved. In addition, the security of tenure for concession areas is not only unpredictable but lacks transparency. And as we will all know investors like predictability”.
Meanwhile the number of licensed tourism enterprises for 2014 is said to be showing tremendous growth compared to previous years. HATAB however could not ascertain the number of licensed enterprises that operate in the country due to absence of data at the government enclave.