Travel visa restrictions are a major impediment to growth in tourism and air transport in the African region, Botswana included. This was said by the General Manager of Air Botswana, Ben Dahwa, at this year’s annual conference of the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) that took place in Kasane on Wednesday. The conference was themed “Tourism: Vital for Development and Economic Growth.”
“Inter-African tourism would be facilitated if the continent was treated as one domestic market similar to the EU with no need for transit visas,” Dahwa said. “Where a visa is required, it should be obtainable at the airport or the process should be speeded up to get it in one or two days.” He added that regions should adopt ‘univisas’ to facilitate region-wide travel and there should be electronic visa programmes.
Dahwa identified poor infrastructure in air transport and the tourism industry as another persistent problem that constrained growth in Africa. This was characterised by inadequate transit facilities at some airports, shortage of parking space for aircraft, and irregular power supply that constrained the use of information technologies at airports.
“There is need for adequate infrastructure to facilitate efficient, fast and inexpensive movement of tourists,” Dahwa said. “Some major airports urgently need a second runway, in case of one being closed for any reason. Air Botswana fleet needs on-going renewal. Tourist traffic will be attracted to airports and airlines that are user-friendly, comfortable and convenient.” Botswana’s Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) is a major project that the government has prioritised for upgrading. The project, which was meant to accommodate the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, is still incomplete five years beyond schedule.
It is understood that air transport is by far the most effective transport mode for international travel constituting around 40 percent market share of all transport modes. The most remote areas can now be reached by air transport. Dahwa said this was critical in Africa where surface transport infrastructure was inadequate in many countries. Air Botswana which its airlines are commonly known for delays for departure, its time performance has significantly moved from 66 percent in March 2014 to 85percent in February 2015. Meanwhile, Dahwa called for the need for air transport and tourism authorities to collaborate and coordinate their policies to drive the development of these related industries.