Tourism operators in Maun say they are staring at a bleak future with most of their businesses having closed shop while some are at the brink of collapse due to the coronavirus.
Pushed by circumstances beyond their control, many have long laid down all staff, sold equipment and fleet and are back at square one with no hope that they will ever recover.
As soon as borders opened and movement restrictions lifted on 1st of December last year, many had little hope that the situation was going to improve only for their excitement to become short-lived. The introduced curfew times, something which they say does not sit well with their clients, have made the already dire situation even worse.
This resulted in the cancellation of bookings at the eleventh hour with demands for refunds. They have cried out to stakeholders to extend a helping hand so that they may be rescued from the current predicament.
Speaking at the industry support facility fund workshop hosted by the National Development Bank (NDB) in Maun, Moreboloki Otsetswe of Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) stated that unlike other sectors of the economy in Botswana, the tourism industry alone has suffered an unprecedented blow considering that international tourism arrivals were halted for a long time, something which he said has dramatically affected the flow of business.
He said a BTO impact of Covid-19 survey paints a very gloomy picture in terms of the devastation the sector has suffered due to the virus.
“With regards to employment, the combination of tourism businesses closing down as well as extreme social distancing, 8.1 percent of staff lost their jobs out of the 3764 employed in the survey sample. The survey projected loss in 2020 for the tourism categories that participated represented by 1832 licensed facilities countrywide at P6,031,631,757.91 which translates to a 126% decline on 2016 achievement of P7,657,400,000.00”. The survey analysis according to Otsetswe further indicated that the fact that close to four hundred licensed tourism enterprises did not respond to the survey. With this taken in to account to estimate loss across all categories, he said the overall loss stands at P9,983,391,453.50 which translates to 130% decline of the 2016 achievement.
NDB Head of Client Services Sethunya Gaolebogwe agreed to the fact that indeed it is not an admirable thing for operators to be working under tough situations as characterize by the effects of COVID 19.
She advised operators that more than anything, they must strive to incorporate health protocols at their various establishments, failure at which their businesses might lose business as a result of minor omissions which they might have taken lightly. She added also that out of a crisis there are always opportunities, hence the need to be more resilient and working towards re-strategizing and benchmarking from those who are still on their feet.
“We were optimistic that the year 2021 was going to be better as compared to the previous year, but it has started on a wrong foot. However government has put up interventions to cushion businesses and the sector at large. It is now upon yourselves to look internally and come up with strategies which you believe can better the situation you find yourselves in”, she said. Gaolebogwe further called on all their strategic partners such as B.T.O, LEA and CEDA to collaborate for the benefit of their common clients so that they also deliver on their common mandate.