Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Locals make inroads into foreign-dominated tourism sector

KASANE – Rather than sitting at home and complaining about government failure to protect and support local businesses in the tourism industry against big companies, some of which are multinational corporations, it seems some residents of Chobe, a hot spot for tourists have since made inroads into the tourism sector.

A number of locals who are active members of the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) attended the association’s annual conference held in Kasane this past Wednesday. Like other sectors of the economy, the tourism industry has often pointed a finger at government when things are not going well. Both government and observers have suggested to the tourism industry to supplement what government is doing with its own initiatives.

While waiting for government aid, locals says they have since decided to start small with hope of growing big in the future. Speaking to Sunday Standard on the sidelines of the conference, the youthful entrepreneurs said that their companies are operating along the banks of the Chobe River.

Their packages are tailor made for individuals, small groups from government departments, schools and corporate clients. Services include boat cruises, game drives, ‘mokoro’ excursions as well as fishing excursions and mobile safaris.

DENIED LICENSE

Meanwhile the future of such businesses has been threatened by failure to acquire professional guide licenses from the Botswana Qualifications Authority. Guide license is issued subject to the terms and conditions of section 43 of the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act, 1992. It is issued to both law abiding Citizens and Residents of Botswana. According to the Act, no person is allowed to conduct a commercial tour in Botswana without a professional guide issued by Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

It emerged during the conference that the Botswana Qualifications Authority has since rejected close to 1500 applications for the said license. Out of the 1652 professional guides who applied, only 240 have since been issued with the licenses, a move that has left BQA and the rejected guides at loggerheads. The professional guides say since they have over 30 years experience, they have been shocked by the BQA ‘rejection’ adding that they doubt the ability of the appointed assessors. On the other hand, BQA insists that a large number of the applicants were rejected since they did not meet the set requirements and criteria.

The mobile operators also questioned the credibility of a parliamentary portfolio committee on natural resources that once paid them a visit and promised to help see to it that their grievances are addressed.

The mobile operators said that they had not received any form of feedback, even though they were made to believe solutions to their many predicaments were going to be dealt with in due time as the issues dated back a long way.

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