Tourism plays a pivotal role in Botswana as the second largest economic sector after mining (especially diamonds). Tourism is central to foreign currency generation for Botswana. Botswana, like other Southern African countries, is vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
The Okavango Delta, which is the central focus of most of Botswana’s tourists, is vulnerable to climate change; hence, climate change is expected to have severe impacts on Botswana’s tourism industry. For example, climate change is said to be the reason for the shrinking of the Okavango delta and for its shifting from north to south.
As a result of this shrinking process, some parts of the Okavango Delta have become dry, rendering these areas unsuitable for wildlife to survive and therefore also for tourism. The result has been that these dry areas are now infiltrated by livestock production. It is for these reasons that climate change will be detrimental to tourism in Botswana.
The tourism operators in northern Botswana are reported to be aware of the general impacts of climate change. These operators observed changes in the physical environment, livelihoods and weather patterns and linked these changes to climate change.
In this regard, these tourism operators rendered nature-based outdoor activities vulnerable to climate change, as it could lead to a loss of quality of attractions and consequently to a decline in tourist numbers. International tourists visiting northern Botswana are also reported to be aware of the general causes of climate change and the implications of their actions on climate change.
Tourists are noted for being aware that the water flow as well as the flora and fauna of the Okavango Delta have been altered by climate change. In southwestern Botswana, tourism operators are also reported to be aware of climate change and its effects on their physical environment.
However, these operators argue that climate change has not influenced their businesses and the nature-based tourism activities they offer. In addition, policy makers in Botswana state that they are aware of climate change and its possible impacts on the tourism industry. Policy makers note that while they are aware of climate change, there are several factors which are likely to impede effective policy development. These include uncertainties surrounding climate change, information gaps, inadequate data and poor public awareness, challenges posed by poor coordination and indeed data capturing and harmonization by concerned institutions.
Mitigating climate change in the tourism industry in Botswana should be a priority to all the stakeholders. For example, the Botswana Government is promoting the use of renewable energy sources instead of the use of fossil fuels in the Okavango Delta. This is hoped to promote an environmentally friendly tourism industry.
The use of renewable energy or ‘going green’ has become a marketing strategy in tourism which companies use to sell their tourism products. Tourism companies such as Okavango Wilderness Safaris have adopted a shift in policy to move away from the use of fossil fuels to solar energy in all its lodges and camps. OWS has adopted the use of a 100% solar energy to meet their energy demands in a total of 10 lodges. Chobe Game Lodge has also introduced electric game drive vehicles to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Renewable energy in the tourism industry is therefore an alternative source of energy that can mitigate against climate change.