By Ludo Chube
Kasane — Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT), Mr Elias Magosi has called upon the tourism industry to ensure responsible tourism development with particular reference to environment sustainable practices.
Speaking at the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) annual conference in Kasane recently, Mr Magosi challenged tour operators to have strategies and encompassing development plans for running their tourism facilities and their surroundings with environmental considerations in mind.
He indicated that as a ministry, they had always tried to find the balance decisions for environmental integrity and assured them of the ministry role to do its part in policy reviews and assessments. “We will continue to look at efforts to facilitate liberalisation of our policies and regulations for long term economic development,” he noted.
He added that it was important to introspect on many of the policies that the ministry had and identify those that can enable businesses in the industry to improve.
Mr Magosi acknowledged that he was aware of the industry’s discomfort with the new guiding license requirements. He explained that the review of the licensing was brought about to ensure Botswana’s competitiveness in the region with regards to the quality of the safari experience as well as provide guides with a career path. He assured them that the situation was being addressed between the ministry and Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA).
He explained that the Chobe Riverfront decongestion strategy whose purpose was to protect the environment was in practice and asked for patience in rolling out the strategy. “At this stage it is premature to make judgments on its impact so we plead with you to be patient and participation in implementing this strategy,” he noted.
With that in mind, he noted that prospects for growth remained robust and encouraging. He however decried lack of tourism data which he said made it difficult to determine how much the industry contributed to the economy. “The last statistics we have were updated in 2010 and for a crucial sector like ours, this is remiss as we need these statistics for planning purposes and mapping a way forward,” he said.
Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) research fellow, Mr Johnson Maiketso also decried the lack of readily available national tourism data. He noted that the tourism policy that was in place was 25 years old and as such outdated. “It is no longer relevant and so on what basis do we then evaluate the sector?” he said.
Regarding the outdated policy, the Director of Tourism Department, Ms Kelebone Maselesele explained that since 2008 the policy had been under review but never finalised which was why the industry continued to run with a policy that was developed in 1990.
In explaining the lack of data, she said Statistics Botswana was said to be experiencing a backlog since 2011 hence the insufficient updated data in the tourism industry.
Source: All Africa
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