While the Minister responsible for Tourism, Tshekedi Khama this week wrote a letter to the Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi regarding his intention to withdraw the controversial tourism levy Bill, the Hospitality and Tourism Association Botswana (HATAB) has decried lack of consultation by the minister regarding the matter.
HATAB Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lilly Rakorong has confirmed that prior to the drafting of the Bill, there was no adequate industry consultation.
Rakorong said that given that the pronouncement was made at the ITB in Berlin, Germany on the proposed introduction of the levy in September 2017, it clearly demonstrates this exercise was not only undertaken in good faith, but also without much regard to long held principle of consultation that has taken the nation thus far.
“Again, the tourism sector is deeply concerned about this unilateral decision following the recent announcement by minister Tshekedi Khama at the HATAB Conference in Kasane that the levy will start in June 2017,” she stated.
Rakorong further stated that as much as government reserves the right to introduce any piece of legislation and initiative, it should be done with prior consultation to ensure feedback, especially if it affects key stakeholders.
She believes that given poor consultation on this exercise makes it unclear on how funds will be accounted for as it will be collected and managed by a parastatal in the form of Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), instead of being managed under Consolidated Fund.
She is also of the view that it remains unclear how the levy will impact on the tourism sector, given has always fraught with a myriad of challenges such as poor service delivery at the entry points, immigration and other government institution, which are clearly internal processes that do not necessarily require any additional funding from the tourism sector.
“Should government continue with this levy, we would like to advise that it should be renamed entry levy as it cuts across all sectors and should be managed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MFED) under Consolidated Fund to ensure accountability and transparency,” said Rakorong.
At the same time, Rakorong observed that it is not clear if government, through the esteemed ministry and BTO has done any impact assessment to inform this decision.
“As HATAB, we are concerned that this initiative may have a telling effect on the sector, as it may contribute to a decrease in the figures on arrivals, leading to declining revenue, with devastating impact on government’s commitment to job creation and the fight against poverty,” said Rakorong.