Tourism, as a business, is the second highest contributor to the Botswana economy and, as such, must be given the seriousness and commitment it deserves.
This was said by the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila, when he officiated at the Tourism Pitso 2007 held this week.
The Minister stated that the annual conference, this year held under the theme‘Towards Realizing our Full Potential’, allowed stakeholders to debate issues with a view to energizing the tourism industry. He said this year’s theme aimed at motivating, inspiring and giving focus towards achieving Botswana’s ultimate goal of growing it’s tourism for greater contribution to the national economy and for better returns to the investors.
Mokaila said that most companies and captains of the tourism industry are making noticeable strides in addressing issues raised in last year’s Pitso, such as the perception Batswana have about the Botswana tourism industry being monopolized by foreigners. For Batswana to achieve a win-win situation, he said they should strive to eliminate this perception.
According to the Mokaila, there are however, a few who are not willing to change with the times.
“These are those who don’t want to work with us towards nation building and attaining the three pillars of vision 2016. In fact they seem determined to work in the opposite direction,” he said, reminding those in attendance that the Pitso is the forum at which we speak to each other openly and candidly, with one objective in mind, to strengthen and grow the tourism industry.
The Minister said there were plans to diversify geographically and product wise and revealed that, so far, some major developments had been made towards the growth of the tourism industry. He said that the Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) had been approved by Parliament, adding that there had also been huge developments in the tender procedures and requirements on new lodges and camp sites as well as in the new tourism license categories.
“Amendments have been made to the Botswana Tourism Board (BTB) and Tourism Act and Regulations. The World Travel and Tourism Council Satellite Account, which has been finalized at an opportune time as the government commences the development of the tenth National Development Plan (NDP 10).
Decisions made on the national airline and air access and infrastructural plans were also covered. In his remarks, Air Botswana Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Lance Brogden, proudly announced that they had made vast improvements in the on-time departure record of Air-Botswana.
“On-time departures in the past two measured quarters are 80 percent as opposed to 60 percent in the corresponding periods in the previous year,” he stated. He confirmed that privatization is not off the cards but is still underway.
“Our air transportation is now safe and reliable and we are focused on fast-tracking our projects that will take this sector to the next level,” Brogden said, explaining that the government is planning to put more money into this sector.
“We would like to buy more aircraft as well as extend our routes to international destinations,” he said.
According to Brogden, the new schedule is prepared so as to focus on primary routes as well as to dedicate the limited resources to these routes. He pointed out that certain unprofitable routes were excluded from the past high-season schedule, which enhanced reliability of the schedule as well as profitability of the airline. He appealed to Batswana to support them saying that success would not come without the support from the dedicated people of this country.