Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park airspace dispute rages on but Govt denies its existence

While the Government has dismissed reports that some Botswana bound tourists and operators are continuously denied air access in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) on the South African side, reports continue to come in suggesting a battle between the two parties.

Botswana operators have in the recent past indicated that their South African counterparts frustrate their efforts to make use of the airstrip on the South African side further saying that some of their clients were turned back recently.

One tourism operator who preferred anonymity says that they have since escalated the issue with the government given that local tourism operators continue to lose millions of Pulas in revenue due to a standoff between them and South Africa.

“We have long requested government to intervene on the issue because we are now suffering and unable to operate on a full scale yet nothing has been done,”

“At some point we were told that there is no issue but our clients are now forced to use alternative routes which are expensive,” said operator.

He further said they are now fearing for the worst as nothing seems to have been done to ensure that tourists are able to access the airstrips.

Meanwhile, The Minister of Environment and Tourism Philda Kereng dismissed the issue saying that they have not received any reports alluding to the barring of tourists and operators in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) on the South African side.

“It is not true that South Africa prohibits Botswana tourists and Botswana tourism operators from using their air strips. The current standard operation procedure on this subject matter which are in practice clearly permits Botswana operators to use airstrips on the South African side,”

“This standing operating procedures will be updated at the next Botswana-South Africa joint park management committee meeting next month,” she said.

She further said she is not aware of any clients from Botswana side that were denied access to the airstrips on the South African side adding that prior to departure from any Botswana airstrip or Airport all scheduled flights to KTP are subject to approval of their flight and upon arrival at the port of entry there is clearance administered by the department of immigration and BURS officials.

Kereng also stated that there are plans by government to increase investment within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the near future.

In 2020 it was reported that in southern Africa, the sector has seen a dip in website traffic and business on airlines, travel agents, hotels, and tourist destinations.

Dependence on the international market has made the sector vulnerable to the effects of the disease outbreak, as the main countries from which tourists come were among the most affected by the global pandemic.

Of the 1.8 million tourist arrivals recorded in 2017 in Botswana, 84 percent were from Africa while the remaining 16 percent were from countries such as the United States, Germany and the UK. However, revenues from overseas far outweigh those from the African continent due to the country’s high value/low impact tourism strategy—with the goal of minimizing environmental impacts and at the same time maximizing socio-economic benefits.

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