Safari companies, tour operators and guides in Maun have expressed concern about Botswana Guides Association (BOGA)’s decision to stop application for membership from tourism companies saying the situation denies them access to land for campsites.
The Chairperson of BOGA, Kenson Kgaga, confirmed that the companies have raised the concerns after his organization rejected applications for membership since 2010. According to BOGA, benefits for membership include access to land for campsites and advocacy for small scale safari companies. He said BOGA has stopped applications as government refused to allocate land for BOGA and its members.
He said more than 20 tourism companies, which have their applications rejected are considering seeking court intervention.
“They are threatening to sue us, saying we are denying them benefits for membership. We cannot allow more companies to apply for BOGA membership, especially those who want to use their membership to access land,” said Kgaga.
He admitted that the situation is negatively affecting local safari companies.
“They are losing clients and others are quitting the tourism business,” he said. Kgaga said government should urgently intervene because the situation is also encouraging unemployment and poverty in Maun and surrounding areas. He said they have regularly written letters to Office of the President, seeking to see President Ian Khama about their concerns but they were rejected.
Government, through the Ministry of Environment, Wild Life and Tourism has in the past indicated that it will never allocate land to BOGA until it merges with the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana to make one organization. Kgaga said they refused to merge with HATAB because the motive for the proposed merger is not clear.
Kgaga said they have raised their concerns about other government policies sabotaging tourism companies, but nothing has changed. He said government policies, such as the stoppage of collection of fire wood and others which allow tourists to view wildlife for only 5 minutes, have resulted in reduced numbers of tourists.
Kgaga said they will continue to express their dissatisfaction about the unfavourable decisions and if government does not take heed of their concerns, they could end up seeking court intervention.
Kgaga said after they were told that there is not enough land for campsites in Maun, the Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism Kitso Mokaila recently allocated foreign tourism companies a chunk of land for canvas.
The spokesperson for Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Caroline Bogale, said they cannot offer the Sunday Standard an immediate response.