For a quicker recovery from the devastating impacts of Covid 19, Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (CEO), Lilly Rakorong has said they had hoped that government in partnership with the private sector would by now have developed a Tourism Recovery Plan.
Rakorong, is of the view that the speed at which the sector will recover from the effects of the pandemic, lies on the existence of an elaborate recovery plan. The sector decries that government, being the major stakeholder was not engaging as it should to ensure a quicker recovery.
According to her, the plan should solely focus on those key recovery strategic areas for the industry to be able to bounce back faster, efficiently and in a very progressive manner. In an interview, Rakorong stressed that their view is that the plan will give them a clear direction of where they intend to go as a sector.
“It will guide us as to what are the things that we need from government’s side as well as those that we need to do from the private sector’s side so that we are able to get back to the 2019 travel numbers, we are able to bring back the jobs that have been lost, we are able to resuscitate those businesses that are still closed because we have to accept that some businesses are not operational as we speak, and it cuts across all the different sub sectors of the tourism industry,” she told this publication.
Rakorong said it is important to note that as the world is getting out of the pandemic, the tourism sector regionally, and internationally has become more competitive as everybody wants to position themselves as they recover.
“Should we not be able to do that in the shortest possible time, the recovery of this sector is going to be very long and off course when it becomes very long it will become very painful. To highlight, in terms of jobs, people are not yet back because some companies are not fully operational and some even in terms of salaries are no at 100% pay so it is very important that we work at how do we get the industry back on its feet.”
She advised that one of the key strategic areas that should be identified is infrastructure development such as transport, be it in aviation or road. Rakorong said the pandemic has shown that without access or movement there is no tourism. Post Covid, she urged that the key strategic enablers especially with regards to transportation should be prioritised.
“Especially when you look at the tourism hub, can the necessary access be put in place. To highlight, look at the Maun-Shakawe road, is it going to help us or is it going to be a hindrance on us in our recovery agenda. What is the plan, what is the priority for such?” she pointed out.
Rakorong believes that if government is to look at the country’s doing business environment and be able to work together and produce that necessary conducive environment it could actually even be faster for the country to quickly get back to the 2019 numbers, “and then we are able thereafter to grow them beyond those figures.”
The CEO reiterated that the tourism industry is indeed recovering from the pandemic noting that in 2023 they are now looking into the new bookings and that it is only in 2024/25 when maybe the 2019 numbers are restored.
“Our slogan during the pandemic was that, do not cancel your bookings but please postpone them so that we can realise those bookings post Covid. Now we have started seeing the arrivals picking up which means we are now realizing those deferred bookings. This means we are back on track, however that does not suggest the industry is fully back on track because we are not even yet back to our 2019 numbers. It is important to note that those deferred bookings and the revenues have been eroded because we are realizing them using the rates of 2020 and 2021. They have been eroded by inflation, interest rates but in bits and pieces there is also new bookings coming in.”