Francistown which is one of the oldest towns in the country has a very rich history that spans over 100 years but has little to show in terms of cultural tourism. It was declared the second city of Botswana in 1997. What makes this city more significant is that the first gold rush in Southern Africa was from this very town. It also hosted a number of political refugees during the liberation struggle from many countries in the region. With a population of over 100 000, it boasts of a number of heritage sites although some of them have been left to dilapidate.
While these heritage sites can help Francistown benefit through cultural tourism, it seems the second city is not benefiting much from its rich cultural heritage. More often tourists prefer to use Francistown as a transit to tourist destinations such as Kasane and Maun. Some of these heritage sites include the old Gold Monarch Mine, Miners’s Cottage, Hexagonal building, Old Francistown airport and the remains of a house in Satellite location that was bombed by the South African apartheid government.
Several attempts by Arts & Society to get a response from the BTO office on how the city is benefiting from cultural tourism failed as this reporter was sent from pillar to post for almost a month. BTO has a mandate to plan, develop and implement tourism marketing and promotion strategies in Botswana.
Game Gareanna from the BTO Communication Office said in an interview that they are still awaiting approval from their superiors to respond to the Telegraph questionnaire.
“The responses have to be approved by our superiors and they have had a very hectic schedule in the past weeks,” he said
Despite Francistown having experienced a decline in economic activity due to closure of mines in its vicinity a dire situation which was worsened by the current Covid 19 pandemic, cultural tourism has the potential to transform the economic fortunes of this city. Through cultural tourism, tourists can explore architectural and archaeological treasures, culinary activities, cultural festivals, historic or heritage sites, and land marks that are found in the city and its surroundings. Francistown boasts of all these treasures.
Countries that are continuing to benefit from cultural tourism the world over include Egypt, France, China, South Africa, Kenya, Poland and Brazil.
Responding to the Telegraph questions last month, Acting Director at the Department of National Museum and Monuments Philip Segadika said that the department has developed tourist circuits or heritage trail across the country to assist tourists in planning their tour itineraries. He said in the case of the Greater Francistown, the terrain comprises of 31 sites and it is made up of the Francistown City trail, Tati trail, Domboshaba trail and Nswazwi trail.
“The Francistown trail has 14 sites and it covers historical buildings, craft centres and historic cemeteries as well as geological formations such as in Gerald Estates,” he said.
He however admitted that some of the heritage sites being in open spaces face a number of challenges. He also emphasized that the past heavy rains lead to an ever growth in some of these historic sites making it difficult for tourists to access them. He said while they have made some achievements, their main concern has often been lack of resources and even manpower.
For her part, Stella Rundle who is the former Director at Supa Ngwao Museum in Francistown told the Telegraph in an interview that cultural tourism is one of the opportunities that the second city can explore.
“You should remember that tourists are not only here in Botswana to see animals, but they want to learn about the local culture as well. They should have a reason to spend time in Francistown. It is unfortunate that Francistown has over the years regressed into a ghost town. Cultural tourism is one area that should be seriously looked into to revive Francistown and return it to its past glory,” she said.