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Tourism operators have been urged to continue embracing sustainable tourism by ensuring minimal environmental impact, supporting local communities, fostering a greater understanding and respect for cultural heritage which also expulses mind-set change.
This as one of the government’s key priorities is to foster a sense of community ownership and involvement in the tourism industry. The call was made by the Acting Minister of Environment and Tourism Nnaniki Makwinja during the Botswana Travel and Tourism Expo (BTTE) in Kasane last week.
Makwinja hasted that tour operators are the brain between the visitors and the communities that make up the nations, adding it is imperative that they work together to ensure that the benefits of tourism are shared equitably to enhance livelihoods of the people and preserving the authenticity of cultural heritage in the basis of climate challenges.
She encouraged operators to embrace sustainable and responsible practices, adopt green technologies and explore their avenues for community based tourism and initiatives.
Makwinja noted that some of the key factors to consider for foster ability and longevity include diversification of services, innovation and technology and local economic development. She stated that the impact of sustainable tourism plays a significant role in job creation.
However, Makwinja has recognised the pivotal role played by the tour operators in shaping the tourism of Botswana indicating that their dedication to providing unique and authentic experiences to citizens contributes significantly to the economic and cultural exchange.
For her part, Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) Acting CEO Keitumetse Setlang said BTO supports meaningful government and private sector initiatives in the tourism sector value chain that are able to add to the tourism product offerings. These she said include both new and existing cultural, heritage, lifestyle, sport and adventure based products or events. Setlang highlighted that a list of events which include sports and adventure, cultural, heritage, cuisine, song dance, lifestyle, allow for optimal participation by communities and economic spin-offs.
She noted that such events are undertaken in collaboration with communities to ensure citizen participation and inclusion in the tourism sector.
Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) CEO Lilly Rakorong said that the travel and tourism industry is key driver to economic growth, job opportunities, fostering cultural exchange and showcasing the beauty and diversity of the nation. She noted that BTTE was an indication to the commitment in promoting excellence, sustainability and innovation in the hospitality and tourism sector. Rakorong has encouraged tourism operators to work together in promoting sustainable tourism.
In an interview, Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust General Manager Seikaneng Moepedi said that the expo has motivated them to change the way they have been doing things and embrace change. He highlighted that they have new initiatives at OKMCT meant to promote sustainable tourism and in that regard coming to the expo was an opportunity for them improve on those.
He noted that climate change has made it imperative that they promote sustainable tourism. He further highlighted that the trust has since introduced mokoro competitions meant to showcase the culture of the North West while promoting sustainable tourism.
Machaba Safaris Stakeholder Relationship Manager, Tuelo Montshonyane stated the expo has motivated them to continue practising sustainable tourism in their business. He noted that at Machaba Safaris they have different citizen empowerment projects that are meant to improve the livelihoods of the communities they operate in.
Tautona Lodge Director Patrick Manthe noted that through the expo they had an opportunity to network with other tourism operators, to share ideas and to make diverse business deals. In addition, Manthe stated that as way of promoting eco-friendly practices at Tautona Lodge they always ensure minimal impact on the environment.