During the Christmas and New Year celebrations, most of the people in Botswana travel to different parts of the country to celebrate these holidays with their loved ones. Urban centres become almost empty as the working-class travel to their villages to be with family. Similarly, holiday makers travel to areas such as Maun and Kasane to enjoy the festive season. This is called domestic tourism.
Domestic tourism is travel by residents undertaking tourism activities “within the country of residence”. Domestic tourism is thus part of “internal tourism” along with inbound tourism as consumption for both forms of tourism is taking place within the country.
A larger portion of the domestic visits in Botswana fall within the Visiting Friends & Relatives (VFR) category which constitutes about 63% of the visitors in Botswana. The proportion of VFR to domestic tourism observed is consistent with regional trends. For example, in South Africa, VFR visitors account for 66% of the total domestic tourism visits.
Domestic tourism is tourism involving residents is influenced by several factors. For example, Maun has become attractive for entertainment and leisure while Kasane is largely leisure. Although the nightclubs, music festivals and football stadiums in Maun are important domestic tourism attractions for many young people, they are minimally developed.
Entertainment has become pull factors that attract visitors in Maun from all over the country. This suggest that while there is little development of domestic tourism in Maun, recreational and cultural activities are slowly emerging as tourist attractions. There are also historic buildings and sites in Maun. Maun has places of historical interest such as the Nhabe Museum and the Batawana royal graves which could be important tourist attractions if they were developed and marketed as such.
Maun has a diverse cultural and ethnic group that produce cultural artefacts such as baskets, woodcarvings, traditional accommodation and dishes, music and dance. Maun also has a local historical and spiritual attraction involving churches which travel to the area for Crossover spiritual services at New Year.
In addition, Maun has traditional donkey cart transportation which could sell very well to cultural tourists during the festive season if domestic tourism was developed. There is even a restaurant called Dusty Donkey in Maun, donkeys and carts can be cultural tourism products to also enhance the image of this restaurant.
If social activities and facilities were developed and attention paid to marketing, domestic tourism in major centres such as Maun would increase and signiﬁcantly contribute to Botswana’s economic development. Domestic tourism would also help revive and preserve the local culture like mekoro safaris and donkey cart transportation. Tourism in Botswana would beneﬁt from diversifying to include cultural products rather than concentrating only on wildlife and scenery.
The limited support for domestic tourism by government in Botswana is worrisome. Infrastructure and facilities for domestic tourism are poorly developed except for the many guest houses, lodges B&Bs that accommodates domestic tourists. Maun has close to a hundred B&Bs which become fully booked during the Festive seasons. Ghimire (2001) notes that governments in developing countries offer limited support to domestic tourism because domestic and regional tourists have low spending power compared with tourists from developed countries. Tourism in developing countries such as Botswana thus focuses on receiving wealthy foreign visitors from developed countries and neglects the potential of mass tourism involving domestic and regional tourists (Ghimire, 2001).
However, the Christmas and New Year holidays indicate that there is an increase in domestic in Botswana. This increase suggests the need for a change of attitude on the part of governments to promote domestic tourism. The change of attitude should include systematic planning and promotion of domestic tourism and the provision of infrastructure and social facilities for domestic tourists.
The underdevelopment of domestic tourism in Botswana is worrisome. This underdevelopment happens for example, even though Botswana has in its past important leaders of the various ethnic groups and a rich socio-cultural history and background. Botswana has national ﬁgures whose stories and contribution to nation building are slowly being lost.
Only recently were the three chiefs (Kgosi Bathoen I, Kgosi Sebele I and Kgosi Kgama III) who successfully defended the country against incorporation into the Union of South Africa in 1910 recognised. Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire, Mr Festus Mogae, Lt General Ian Khama Seretse Khama who are former presidents of Botswana are minimally celebrated. In the USA, there are Presidential libraries to honour past presidents and these are domestic tourism attractions.
We also have former opposition leaders in parliament such as Dr Kenneth Koma, Mr PG Mantate, and Motsamai Mpho. The biographies of these leaders are not marketed as cultural tourism products – they do not have memorials like Dr Martin Luther King (Atlanta, Georgia), Frederick Douglass (Washington, DC), Abraham Lincoln (Washington, DC), or other national ﬁgures in developed countries. As we celebrate Xmas and New Year, my prayer is that domestic tourism in Botswana should be given the necessary attention. Domestic tourism can survive pandemics and all the crisis that affect international tourism.