Government has established a task force to investigate illegal operations in the tourism industry, a cabinet minister has said.
The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Kitso Mokaila said yesterday that the government is seeking to tighten its grip on the sector, which has been identified as a significant driver of the country’s economic diversification efforts. The minister was speaking at the Tourism Pitso 2008 in Gaborone. He said the ministry appointed a task force after players in the industry raised concerns. Already, the recommendations of the task-force have necessitated changes in the Tourism Act.
Apart from looking at ways of curbing illegal operators in protected areas, the task force is looking at the payment levy by non-accommodation tourism enterprises and licencing categories.
“Illegal operations and increased activity by mobile operators, especially in the Northern Protected Areas are still a concern. As a result, the Tourism Board has found it necessary to appoint a task force to look into the matter and this has led to a temporary moratorium on the issuance of mobile operator licences,” said Mokaila.
The minister emphasised on government’s duty to provide a conducive environment for the industry to develop and grow since it is mostly private sector driven. The Tourism Pitso is an annual conference, which brings together all stakeholders in the industry for discussions. This year, it is held under the theme ‘Embracing Smart Partnership in Tourism’.
“The drive to diversify the tourism product base and to present tourists with a wide range of products, activities, experiences and interactions is on. As a ministry, we recognise and respect the important roles played by government, private sector and local communities and as such we will strive to ensure that the tourism sector is government-led, private sector driven and there is active participation by local communities. The starting point is to have local communities benefit directly from the industry by being part of it,” he said.
Tourism is the second highest foreign exchange earner and contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Botswana after diamonds.
Mokaila raised concerns about the unsatisfactory service standards in the hospitality industry due to insufficient skills. He urged the Department of Tourism to seek reputable institutions in the region to conduct training for the industry in a bid to improve service delivery.
To improve service standards, the Botswana Tourism Board intends to establish a hospitality school during NDP 10 while the University of Botswana is conducting a feasibility study to establish a hospitality and environment school.
Giving an update on the Pitso 2007 resolutions and recommendations, the director of tourism, Gloria Maselesele said that after concerns raised by the industry about the tenure of leases, discussions are going on between relevant stakeholders to consider the extension of the current 15-year land tenure. She added that the department of lands has embarked on an initiative to reserve land for the Ministry of Tourism to prevent delays in land allocations for tourism purposes. She said the department of civil aviation is in the process of expanding the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA); and Francistown, Kasane and Maun airports to address the problem of non-availability of long haul flights to Botswana.
“Projects are progressing well except for the Kasane one, which is a bit behind schedule due to the consultant’s delays. For the SSK airport, two contracts have been awarded and the expected date of completion for this project is December 2009,” she said.
She said tourism operators have submitted their profiles to the Botswana Tourism Board (BTB) so that they can exploit the opportunities offered by the 2010 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by South Africa. She revealed that the board is compiling submissions to forward to FIFA through the Management Accommodation Ticketing Computer Hospitality. “The board has also forwarded the FIFA website to local operators for them to submit their profiles. A consultant was engaged in June 2008 to formulate and assist BTB implement the strategy for recruiting teams to camp in Botswana,” she said.