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HATAB conference calls for tourism policy review

Publishing Date : 14 May, 2018

Author : REARABILWE RAMAPHANE

Guest Speaker at the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) 2018 Conference and University of Botswana Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris has emphasized the vitality of proper and comprehensive research in developing Botswana’s Tourism industry to a world-class sector that competes globally.  The annual Conference was held in Maun last weekend.


Prof Norris is of the view that research is key in providing knowledge to management and policy decision makers. He observed that properly quantified data on tourism was lacking and very limited especially from within African countries. He highlighted that only holistic and overview studies were conducted by international organisations that were not even based in Africa. According to Norris, in the worst case scenario, the data was either unreliable or even non-existent owing to the fact that businesses worried more about cost implications than benefits thereof.


As such, the Professor called for a comprehensive approach that brought together all stakeholders for a value chain analysis and proper knowledge management. The University of Botswana Boss also stated that the importance of research broadens to inform the sector if the Botswana’s tourism industry had marginalised, closing out the poor and even whether the industry players were doing enough to promote other areas of tourism apart from wildlife.


He said robust research methodologies to address these questions need to be undertaken if any significant progress as far as inclusive growth in this lucrative sector is to be achieved. The sector currently contributes billions and over 25 000 indirect and direct jobs to Botswana’s economy.


According to Professor Norris, available research findings  by institutions such as Okavango Research Institutes (ORI) were unfortunately not taken up  to inform policy crafting by industry stakeholders . In terms of this conference theme “Communication, Information and Education: Power lines of Tourism Development –communication of research findings was still a problem in Botswana, research data that is compiled by for instance ORI  on a number of areas in the tourism sector is not utilized  by the  industry,” he said.


ORI Director, Professor Joseph Mbaiwa criticised Botswana’s 28 year Old Tourism Policy terming it outdated and misinformed to current global industry trends and requirements. He said it retarded the growth of the industry. Mbaiwa said review of the policy was long overdue because it was no longer serving the interests of the industry. “Botswana might be deceived that its tourism industry was growing, but comparatively it was suppressed given that over the years there had been a decline in tourism arrivals while the country’s global share in the industry remained very low,” he said.


He argued that the outdated policy hinders a chance for industry growth saying Botswana had not adequately taken advantage of its tourism potential owing to the old policy that does not inform evolved economic trends.“Through the revised policy, the industry could also respond to issues of diversification, sustainability, economic efficiency as well as social, environmental and cultural challenges to eventually put Botswana in a competitive mode,” said Professor Mbaiwa. Further, he highlighted that such was not the government’s role alone but that of all industry players as well.


HATAB Chairperson Dr Thapelo Matsheka told attendants that Botswana Government was not consultative on issues of Tourism sector decision making. He accused the government of being selective in engaging the private sector. Dr Matsheka said government makes unilateral decisions on key issues affecting the industry.


“The decisions actually affect the private players in this sector directly but the latter are not fully consulted and engaged by government and this was hindering the unleash of the lucrative industry to the fullest,” he said
He also noted that government needed to privatise some tourism events that Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) organises with taxpayers’ money. “Some of these events can be better hosted by the private sector, money should be hived from there, not just in sponsorships that are later unaccounted for because BTO’s account also pours in chunks of funds towards these event,” reiterated Matsheka.


Human Resource Development Council Chief Executive Officer, Dr Raphael Dingalo, emphasised the need to strengthen the tripartite alliance of the private sector, government and academia in the development and growth of the tourism industry. Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Mr Felix Monggae noted that the Tourism Training levy was unutilized as uptake by industry players was low. He said the levy account was sitting at over 17 million pula available for use by relevant and eligible persons and companies.


“There are issues of sub-standard service in the tourism industry yet the training levy is aimed to help tourism operators address such by offering training in various skills in tourism and hospitality,” he said. In response to grievances that that locals and indigenous Batswana were left out in this lucrative sector, Monggae  told delegates that government tourism licensing encourages citizen participation and hence, about 1 600 licensed tourism entities were recorded by January this year with 1 177 citizens only, 256 joint ventures and 254 non-citizens.


The tourism industry continues to be one of Botswana cardinal economic sectors,  literally one of the anchors of the county’s fiscals, contributing significantly to government revenue and creating a whole value chain of Small Medium Enterprises and supporting other macro businesses that account for significant shares in Botswana ‘s economic setup.


The World Tourism & Travel Council (WTTC) has projected that the industry’s direct contribution to the country’s GDP will grow by 5.8 % in 2018, information contained in the organization’s Annual Research report indicates. The report states that the direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to Botswana’s GDP was BWP7, 129.6 million in 2017. The WTTC further  revealed that the sector’s total contribution to the  GDP was BWP21, 496.5 million (USD2, 072.9mn) in 2017 accounting for  11.5% of the GDP,  further suggesting a rise of 4.9% in 2018, and a rise of 4.5% p.a to BWP34, 874.2 million 11.7% of GDP in 2028.


The HATAB conference is one of Botswana’s Tourism industry premier policy discussion and views exchange event. This year the meet underscored a number of issues that needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The HATAB Conference gathers academics, tourism industry players, travel and tourism industry stakeholders as well as other complementing economic drivers to discuss travel & tours, hospitality and the entire Tourism industry. The Tourism sector is Botswana’s second largest foreign income earner and GDP contributor after the mining sector, spearheaded by the lucrative diamond industry.

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