Monday, September 21, 2020

Minister promises to act on racism allegations in the tourism industry

The Government will make a move to investigate allegations of racial discrimination and favouritism of the super rich Americans visiting tourism sites in particular the Northern Botswana ones infested with breathtaking wildlife adventure.

The tourism sector after diamonds provides the much needed revenue for the country and the welfare of its citizens.

“I promise we will treat the matter very seriously… investigate the allegations as alluded to by Kgosi Masunga. This is our land. Such allegations of discrimination and favouritism will not be tolerated in our country if proven to be true,” warned the Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Botlogile Tshireletso standing for the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism addressing members of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi on Friday.

“We learn some of these nationals even own these tourism camps and sites and conduct bookings offshore on behalf of their clients. This means transactions are made at their respective countries meaning revenue accrued benefits their countries,” Tshireletso added.

Ntlo Ya Dikgosi members visited famous tourism sites in the North in particular the world heritage Okavango Delta including wildlife saturated Moremi game reserve recently during which time they were greeted with not-so-new allegations of discrimination and favouritism by some foreign nationals visited upon Batswana. 

Kgosi Maruje Masunga named the favoured nationals as the Americans.

“What I want to ascertain is whether there are certain nationals in particular the Americans who dominate the tourism sector making some bookings offshore with certain tourist sites preserved specially for them?,” asked Masunga.

Earlier the Assistant Minister will not be dragged into admitting certain nationalities are preferred over locals and other non-residents.

“All tourist facilities in Botswana including those within the delta, game reserves and other areas are accessible to the general public both residents and non-residents,” Tshireletso said before acknowledging the allegations and promising an investigations into the matter at hand.

“The Ministry is not aware of any facilities that are booked offshore and are accessible to certain nationalities,” she added.

In an effort to ensure meaningful participation of Batswana within the tourism industry the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism reserved certain tourism activities for citizens and 100 percent citizen owned companies.

“The reserved activities are commercial guest houses, bed and breakfast, mobile safaris, motor boats and transfers and mokoro,” the outgoing Assistant Minister and Member of Parliament for Mahalapye East told traditional leaders.

Tshireletso will not stand for general elections end of the year as she has bid politics goodbye having served two time tenure in Parliament.

“The Ministry also engages in a lot of public awareness campaigns to share information on tourism opportunities through different forums and communication mediums for example radio programmes, workshops, fairs and Tourism Pitso,” she said.

The 2016 Tourism Satellite Account for Botswana indicates internal tourism expenditure including sum of inbound, day visitor and domestic tourism totaling P14.5billion.

“The direct and indirect contribution of tourism to GDP is estimated to be 7.6%,” Tshireletso said, before dismissing knowledge of money siphoned offshore and invested locally.

“We do not have figures on how much is siphoned offshore and invested locally,” she concluded.

Kgosi Masunga concerned about the allegations learnt from the recent Ngami tour posed the original question wanting to know the accessibility of the tourism facilities within the delta, game reserves and other areas across Botswana.

Besides wanting to know allegations of certain tourist sites in the country are reserved for bookings offshore only and are accessible to certain nationalities only hold an iota of truth, the traditional leader wanted know tourism as Botswana’s second income earner after diamonds appears to be shrouded in secrecy to the detriment of inhabitants of Botswana.. 

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.