Twenty-eight years later, the Botswana’s tourism policy of 1990 still remains a headache to the tourism industry as it is outdated and restrains the country’s growth compared to neighbouring destinations.
The review of the policy has been the song sung over the years at every annual conference of the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB).
The conference which convened this Friday at Maun Lodge in Maun, had the tourism policy review as the major topic that need to be given much needed attention.
Dr Joseph Mbaiwa, Professor of Tourism Studies at the Okavango Research Institute said Botswana requires a more aggressive policy, and without it “we cannot make our industry competitive. The current policy is no longer serving the needs of the industry and things have changed considerably since 1990.”
Dr Mbaiwa expressed that on the surface we may be deceived that tourism is growing but Botswana’s tourism growth is restrained compared to neighbouring destinations.
“Growth in tourism arrivals has been declining over the last five years, compared to South Africa and Namibia who have the right policies in place . Botswana has not adequately taken advantage of its tourism to its maximum benefit.”
Without the new tourism policy in place Botswana is missing the opportunity of making the Industry competitive, diversifying and it becoming sustainable.
Dr Mbaiwa who blamed both the government and the private sector for delaying the review of he policy, urged all relevant sectors in tourism to be involved in the process of reviewing the tourism policy
It is commonly expressed that traditional nature based tourism product has now reached the stage of maturity.
In this respect, there is need to reflect on this policy in view of the complex and dynamic nature of Tourism. This complexity is further accentuated by the fact that the industry is inescapably tied to the global economic system, which essentially renders it susceptible to fluctuations in the global markets.
The industry argues that some aspects of the policy have become redundant as they
have been overtaken by events and trends in the international tourism business environment.
The Sunday Standard understands that In 2010 there was a draft of this much said tourism policy but it died a natural death along the way.
At the 2016 HATAB conference here is Maun, Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife Tourism, Tshekedi Khama shunned the document describing it as empty.
Khama who did not show face t his years’ conference, in 2016 told the industry that more had to be done by all stakeholders than just to deliver an empty document.
When talking of a tourism policy, he added that the country has to be receiving tourists and the there has to be facilitation of those tourists. He described the country’s airports as disastrous compared to neighbouring destinations, as well as the internet speed frustrations.
“I need to have a refinanced Air Botswana, I need to have direction on immigration, commitment on visas. The is no point in me bringing up a policy that is wonderful and the stakeholders aren’t supportive of it. I can promise anything you want, but if I can’t get tourists to you why am I getting the policy?,” he said at the time.
To buttress on the above on Friday at the conference, HATAB Chairman Dr Thapelo Matsheka said with the absence of the appropriate strategies and policies, the tourism sector will not be able to create sustainable jobs that are meant to be created.
He also went onto add that not only does the tourism policy need review but also others such as Tourism Master Plan, Wildlife National Act, Environmental Impact Assessment Act and the BTO mandate.
Meanwhile the Deputy PS, Felix Monggae said that a new tourism policy is 95 percent complete but waiting input from key stakeholders. Monggae said it was still lacking on issues of VISAs and ICT.