The Okavango Delta has been selected as one of the top three finalists in the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) prestigious 2010 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.
The awards, which are an initiative launched in 2003 under the stewardship of the WTTC, serve to recognise sustainable tourism development in the selected areas.
Botswana Tourism Organisation Public Relations officer, Keitumetse Setlang, said the awards are also meant to demonstrate best practises, including helping to improve the livelihoods of communities and supporting the protection of natural and cultural heritage through sustainable tourism development.
She stated that the awards are presented in four categories namely: destination stewardship award, conservation awards, community benefit award and global tourism business award and also added that over 160 entries were received this year, from over 45 countries and a total of 12 finalists in all the four categories were selected by an international team of independent judges in each of the categories, with three finalists in each category.
“Furthermore, from all these entries, applicants included governments, NGOs, businesses, or community organisations on behalf of destinations and Botswana Tourism Board entered the Okavango Delta Ramsar Site (ODRS) in the Destination Stewardship category,” she said.
The Okavango Delta was officially designated as a Ramsar Site in 1996 by the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands which recognises wetlands of international importance.
Setlang went on to explain that the entry they chose for the ODRS is in recognition of the Delta’s contribution to the upliftment and advancement of tourism and the livelihood of not only people living around it, but that of the people of Botswana.
She further narrated that the Botswana government supports and encourages sound sustainable tourism development, with initiatives taken to develop policies to guide the development of the sector, with emphasis on the environment.
“Some of the instruments developed so far include the National Ecotourism Strategy, the Ecotourism Best Practise manual and the recent introduction of the Eco Certification Programme, which are all intended to guide and recognise efforts made in sustainable tourism development,” she said.
She further noted that having been selected as one of the top three finalists means a lot to the country.
“Having been selected means people out there recognise our efforts to use our natural resources wisely and also that the little we have benefits the nation,” she said.
She also indicated that it shows Botswana’s care for the environment is also distinguished and, most importantly, that it enhances Botswana Tourism Board marketing.
“If people outside the country, especially tourism near Okavango being mentioned they will familiarise with it through this award and might love to come see the beauty that is being talked about,” Setlang added.
She further stated that The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is the forum for business leaders in the Travel & Tourism industry with Chief Executives of some one hundred of the world’s leading Travel & Tourism companies as its Members and that WTTC has a unique mandate and overview on all matters related to Travel & Tourism.
“WTTC works to raise awareness of Travel & Tourism as one of the world’s largest industries, employing approximately 220 million people and generating over 9.4 per cent of world GDP and the winners of the Tourism for Tomorrow awards will be announced in Beijing in May 2010,” she added.