Tourism billions a mirage for Batswana

Dikarabo Ramadubu - BG reporter
Tuesday, 07 May 2019
Tourism billions a mirage for Batswana

Government is still to show its seriousness on citizen-economic empowerment regarding tourism as to date there are no reserved concessions rights for Batswana in the heartland.

This is despite that 40 percent of areas are tourism space. Currently most if not all lodges and camps in the heartland are foreign-owned with indigenous Batswana relegated to mere employees such as tour guides. Records show that Botswana’s tourism sector grew by 3.4 percent in 2018 injecting at least 2.7 billion US Dollars into the local economy according to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) report.   The sector created an estimated 84 000 jobs which is 8, 9 percent of the country’s total employment.  CEIC, a global reputable organisation states that Botswana’s Tourism Revenue grew 21.5 percent in Dec 2017, compared with a decrease of -8.1 percent in 2016.

It states further that Botswana Tourism Revenue data reached an all-time high of 41.7 percent  in December 2003 and a record low of -40.3  percent in December 1996.  CEIC calculates annual Tourism Revenue Growth from annual Tourism Revenue. The World Bank provides Tourism Revenue in USD. Tourism Revenue of Botswana reached 704.6 million USD in December 2017. 

Good as it may look for the economy, these figures remain meaningless to the majority of the indigenous citizens as they have very little say with over 50 percent of the revenue collected being paid in foreign countries. Environment Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism minister, Kitso Mokaila was this week cagey on whether the proposal tabled before cabinet by his ministry includes reserving concessions in the heartland as part of citizen economic empowerment. Botswana Guardian also wanted to know what his ministry is doing to create greater understanding about the importance of environmental conservation and management whenever they hold big events such as Khawa or Desert Race to ensure that tourism is not disrupted. Mokaila said the mandate of Botswana

Tourism Organisation is to create opportunities for Batswana and communities. It is to start an event, grow it and when it becomes viable, hand it to the private sector to run. “Where we have invested, this must come out   with an exit strategy for them to get that money to go and invest it somewhere else,” he said, giving an example that in Khawa the intention is to develop the Khawa community to run their own perennial enterprise around the sand dunes not for it to be a once-off event.  As for Moremi Gorge where BTO created a business around Moremi, Mokaila said they are supposed to exit and go and invest somewhere else to create livelihood for communities.

This means that in Moremi there is a community project. “At the end of it all what I want to see is for them to find  an entrepreneur who works with the community to develop  them further and the two go somewhere else”. Mokaila said everything they do is based upon an environmental assessment or study. “So for Khawa, we know what is to take place and what cannot take place there.  “This is why EIAs are very important as they are also about sustainability of  enterprising, so if you kill that which you want to use to create an enterprises, then that would be very sad because the sustainability of such an enterprise is key”.  For example, the route for the Toyota 1000 km race passes through campsites hence EIA is done to ensure sustainability. “We know conservation, as it evolves around sustainability”.

When BTO enters into a community that is only the starting point, “we work with the community to do the management plan, which speaks to the possibility of environmental impacts, the carrying capacity of the area,” Mokaila said.Mokaila conceded that it was wrong for his ministry to focus all their training - whether governance or whatever - on board members, and have now realised that boards change every now and then.  “We have changed now to focus on  the community as a whole,” so that when a member joins the board he already understands the importance of carrying capacity, management and conservation.

The minister said that part of the reason why he brought Dr Oduetse Koboto back to the ministry from United Nations is to strengthen the component of climate change so that communities understand about mitigation and adaptation, and why they must be done. “I am sure very soon you will see our efforts of pushing the issue of climate change. This is why also the climate change policy has gone through cabinet and I will be putting it to parliament in July,” he said.

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