The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila, said in parliament Friday that the main driver of the tourism sector will not remain unaffected by the global economic crisis that is currently affecting main areas of the economy, especially mining.
“The current indications are that major cancellations, though expected, are not normally immediate due to the long lead time in bookings, a situation which may change as the year progresses,” he said.
He indicated that certain target markets “have indeed started to cancel bookings previously made”, saying “for example, some of the tourism sub-sector operators have recorded a decline in bookings held, compared to the same period last year”.
His reasoning is in line with what most economic observers have indicated before stating that under the present situation, the financial, petroleum and the tourism sectors are bound to be badly hit because of their internationalism.
“I think the listed sectors that are mostly to be affected by the global downturn are financial, petroleum and tourism sectors,” he said, before adding the mining sector as another victim.
However, by Friday night, indications at Chobe Game Lodge, one of the country’s internationally renowned tourism spots, said that they have not yet experienced any hurdles related to the global financial crisis.
“We have not yet experienced any cancellations of lodge bookings as yet. Normally, the winter season is the tourists’ peak time. Wait until the season comes and, we will see if the crisis has an impact or not,” said an official at the lodge.
So reiterates Kalahari Arms hotel secretary Elsa Vanhiirzen: “Usually our clients are government officials but as of now we have not detected any cancellations of hotel bookings.”
Mokaila is adamant the closing down of companies in the tourism industry is not anticipated in the foreseeable future, “though it may not be completely ruled out should the recession take much longer than anticipated”.
He said as of now government does not have any contingency plan or stimulus strategy, adding that “my ministry will, however, as we have done in the past, continue to assist and facilitate the industry and tourism facilities to conduct business without undue disruptions”.
Mokaila was answering a question from Chobe MP, Duncan Mlazie.
Fearing that his constituency, heavily dependent on tourism, could be adversely affected, Mlazie, a former assistant finance minister, wanted to know how the world economic recession had affected the tourism industry in Botswana, particularly in terms of cancellations of hotel bookings in “most of our tourist centers like Chobe and Moremi game reserves”.