MAUN ÔÇô Tourism Minister Tshekedi Khama has said that he is ashamed of the current state of some of the international airports in the country, especially the Maun International Airport. Khama was speaking at the annual Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) annual conference held here on Friday.
Responding to some of the queries brought up by tourism industry players, Khama admitted that Botswana airports as compared to those in the region are nothing to be proud of. Botswana has six main airports and 18 airfields operated and maintained by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB).
The main airports in Botswana are: Sir Seretse Khama Airport, opened in 1984 and is the main international gateway into Botswana; Maun Airport – the second busiest airport in Botswana and the base for tourist activities in the Okavango area and other parts of North West District, Francistown Airport, open to both domestic and international traffic; Kasane Airport, strategically situated on the ‘Four Corners’, that is, it borders Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe; Ghanzi Airport and Selibe Phikwe Airport.
“Kasane airport only got online recently. Maun airport on the other side is a disaster,” Khama said, adding that other countries such as Zambia are busy building better state of the art airports.
Khama’s sentiments come at a time when Government has committed over P1 billion to the construction and refurbishment of airport structures in Botswana’s tourism hubs of Kasane and Maun. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB) previously announced that the government will spend close to P800 million to construct a new terminal at Maun airport. The airport has a rich aviation history because of the thriving tourism industry in the area, which accounts for a majority of landings and take-offs.
However Khama said Friday that Botswana’s tourism industry cannot out-do its regional competitors when it has its budget slashed down despite the challenges that the sector is facing.
“We submitted our budget to the ministry of finance and had part of it removed and as such we are faced with financial challenges.”
Khama said that after the budget cut he has no option but to look up to the private sector for financing some of their scheduled projects.
On the national airline, Air Botswana, Khama said that there is need to refinance it rather than opening skies for competitors. Khama was responding to some of the commentators who called on the CAAB to clip Air Botswana’s wings of monopoly over local air routes.
“I have trust that the new Air Botswana board will make it,” he concluded.