MAUN ÔÇô The Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) locked horns with government representatives in Maun over the weekend in a mini pitso meant to address concerns raised about government’s failure to get rid of impediments that negatively affect business operations in the tourism sector.
Recently, HATAB Chairman Thapelo Matsheka expressed his frustrations with government’s failure to resolve issues that impede business in the tourism sector, ten years after the organization presented a report on the “catalogue of issues” that beleaguer tourism. The two parties met at a mini pitso in Maun over the weekend, at which sixteen out of the seventeen burning issues which have been a hold up in the day to day operations of the tourism industry were discussed. An agreement was reached with the Ministry of Transport and Communications to have some regulations revised with immediate effect.
Part of the legislation, which limited the number of vehicles entering Wildlife Management Areas and National Parks, was considered costly as tour operators were required to use separate vehicles to transport goods, staff and tourists. A PRDP license will also not be required when not transporting goods or passengers as was the case in the past. Before the amendments, a PRDP was required even when the vehicle was empty, just because its driver had a P-Permit.
In the past, the requirement by the MTC for the validity of road worthy certificate to be six months (three months for interim P permits and one year for P permits) was considered a setback on tour operators as it forced them to renew their licenses from time to time. The other hindrance was that renewals were becoming costly as inspectors from the Department of Road Transport and Safety (DRTS) had to make frequent travels to the camps. The new amendments have increased the validity of roadworthiness from six months to one year.
Speaking during a press briefing after the pitso, Dr Matsheka said it is important to foster communication with relevant stakeholders so that tourism activities can be mainstreamed. Unlike mining and agriculture, he said, government has not fully invested much on tourism as it appears to be purely private sector business. For her part, HATAB CEO Lilly Rakorong said the way some agencies were interpreting the law was out of the ordinary. She added that some requirements were not only challenging but unnecessary.
“There was inconsistency with license processing,” she said.
Meanwhile, Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary at MTC Onalenna Sechele said they had to sit down and interrogate the catalogue of issues brought before them in order to identify where the many problems emanated.
“Along the way, we observed that there were lengthy processes within operations, which is why government now wants to advocate for easy business procedures. We also realized that some processes required documentation that was not even relevant to the tourism sector,” she said.
She added that they decided to revise some legislation in order to serve evolving markets like tourism.
“Let us all take these challenges as eye openers. Government preaches efficiency and I promise that effective today we will no longer have similar issues,” she said.