- Tourism sector disappointed
- Sector had expected the president to speak about recovery plan
- HATAB worried the country’s pace to recover from covid is slow
The tourism sector has been left disappointed as the State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered by President Mokgweetsi Masisi this week did not provide direction on the recovery path of the industry that suffered the most of the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The industry’s expectation has been for government to come up with a recovery plan, that would guide the sector to transition to pre Covid era.
However, in his address Masisi only touched on agro-tourism and the funding that has been secured for the maintenance of tourism facilities within the Kavango Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA).
“We had expected that the president will extensively cover the tourism industry more so that we are coming out of the most difficult situation of the Covid 19 pandemic. We are a sector that has been hardly hit by the pandemic,” Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) CEO, Lilly Rakorong said in an interview.
According to her, their expectation was that the SONA will provide a direction on the recovery of the tourism industry more so that currently they are not sure what the plan is and how government is going to fast track the recovery process.
Rakorong revealed that last year they had as HATAB proposed to government about the need for all the parties to draw the recovery plan. She said though government did not reject the proposal, there has however been no action on the proposal.
“We need to be able to come up with a consolidated plan whereby all these issues that affect tourism performance or recovery are addressed collectively and the sooner the better. Otherwise, if we don’t work closely together in ensuring we bring back tourism on its feet, the recovery process is going to be very long and painful,” she advised.
Rakorong lamented that the industry still has operators that remain closed, and employees who are still out of jobs, while for those who are back they are still not on their full salaries. Disappointedly, they thought that this would be a very important item that would form part of SONA detailing how the industry will make up for all the losses it made during the pandemic.
Statistics indicate that in 2019 tourism contributed 5.1 percent to the GDP and also created over 58 000 jobs, the view of sector is that it is important for the industry to return to the pre-Covid figures through a plan that will indicate clearly on how the industry is going to thrive.
“Yes, we appreciate the fact that agro-tourism is diversifying the industry but we had thought that what would also happen is to protect investment that was already put into the country. How do we resuscitate it and how do we thrive while looking into these other areas of diversification and opening up for locals to meaningfully participate in the tourism industry?”
Rakorong is of the view that the country’s pace to recover from the pandemic is very slow. She strongly believes that bringing to conclusion such issues as pending leases for investors, infrastructure development and marketing the local tourism product internationally would actually help facilitate the recovery of the sector.
“The issue of pending leases on its own, the longer it stays brings in a lot of anxiety whereby the investor is not sure of where they are going. This means investing back into the business becomes very slow on its own. We had hoped that we would bring this matter to rest as soon as possible because some of them have been pending from as far back as 2017.”
As for infrastructure development, Rakorong highlighted the need for government to move with speed to address the issue of access infrastructure development. She said the state of the Maun-Shakawe and the Nata-Kazungula roads, which lead the tourism destinations is of serious concern as they are key to the recovery of the industry.