Continuing with improving and transforming their chain of hotels from an African brand into an international brand, the Cresta Marakanelo Group on Friday officially opened Cresta Residency Hotel in Francistown.
The Minister for Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila, said development indeed represents a significant investment in the tourism sector in Francistown, adding that it came at an opportune time when the eyes of the world were focused on Southern Africa which will host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, he stated.
Mokaila pointed out that the hospitality industry, like many other forms of economic activity, is influenced by the quality of the product and, more importantly, by the quality of service. He said their mandate, as an industry, is to ensure that all visitors, both domestic and foreign, enjoy consistent high standards of service from the entire hospitality and tourism industry. “A magnificent building of this caliber calls for increased efforts in the provision of quality service to all customers,” he stressed.
The Minister further revealed that they had recently embarked on a hotel grading exercise which is going to make sure that five star hotels are real five star hotels and that they are comparable to other five star hotels around the world to give the customer value for money. He said they are, therefore, compelled to define hospitality not by their own standards, but by international standards.
Francistown, he said, is a stopover for those in transit to the main tourism destinations in Botswana and beyond.
“It is, therefore, fitting that we provide world class hospitality facilities to meet the needs of the discerning tourist and travel and entice them to stay longer in the city to enjoy what it can offer before venturing into our wilderness destinations,” he added.
Mokaila further stated that the hospitality businesses, such as the Cresta Marakanelo Group, can create backward and forward linkages as well as strategic alliances with other travel and tourism sectors such as airlines, road and rail transport, car hire and tour operators. As the oldest hotel group in the country, he said Cresta Marakanelo should explore business alliances and provide the leadership to move the industry a step further. This, he said, would go a long way to improve quality and reliability of services.
He revealed that it is the Government’s strategy to make tourism the next engine of growth for the economy, and the hospitality sector is an important component of this strategy. Though this industry is predominantly managed by the private sector, the Minister stated that the Government has and continues to play a major role in its development to maximize the economic benefits for the nation. He said the Government is expected to play a catalyst role by formulating investment friendly policies, legislation and strategies.
On the establishment of the Botswana Tourism Board (BTB), Mokaila explained that the founding of BTB was a deliberate effort by the Government to provide a catalyst in the development, marketing and promotion of the country as a tourism destination of first choice. On the other hand, the Government expects the private sector such as Marakanelo Group, to passionately pursue a clear vision for their businesses which are in line with the Government’s vision. According to the Minister, a smart partnership between the Government and the private sector is therefore crucial for the success of the hospitality and tourism industry.
“It is for this reason that the Government established the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) as its investment arm to form joint venture partnerships with the private sector and stimulate investment,” he stated.
Whilst he appreciated what the BDC had achieved in terms of hotel development, Mokaila thinks it is now time for the Corporation to move to a higher level and to bring in the likes of the Hiltons and Sheratons to invest in Botswana.
With the current developments in Botswana, especially in tourism, mining and energy sectors, he said Botswana needed to attract international hotel brands to the country.
“This can only be achieve if we provide the same hospitality services in our urban areas provided by some of our star lodges in the game parks and reserves,” he concluded.