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Tourism levy angers operators 

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 30 May 2017   |   By Solomon Tjinyeka
Tourism levy angers operators 

The Tourism Development Levy introduced by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources  Conservation and Tourism, which comes into effect on June 01,  has been criticised by industry players and tour operators with equal measure. Through this levy foreign visitors will be expected to pay USD30.00 (about P300) at the ports of entry. A board member of Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB), Lesh Moiteela, has complained that there was no communication with stakeholders when the levy was introduced by the minister. He said the levy was proposed two years ago, but it has never been mentioned since then. He complained that the levy will increase the tourists’ congestion at Maun International Airport due to inadequate infrastructure and personnel. He said machines that will be installed for payment of the levy will cause further delays at the airport. “Already there is congestion of tourists at the airport. Tourists have to wait for two to three hours for customs and immigration clearance before they can proceed to their destinations. At the moment there are only two tellers at the airport where tourists clear their luggage/belongings. With additional machines the situation will get worse," he quipped. Moiteela, who works for Wilderness Safaris, said they have already asked Minister Tshekedi Khama to postpone the introduction of the levy at Maun airport to September until the construction of the terminal building at the airport is completed. Although they called for the suspension of the levy, the construction of the terminal building has not even started. 

Another concern is that the levy is not specific on age limits of those supposed to pay. Moiteela said there are a lot of things that still need to be clarified before the levy is introduced. Some operators have expressed concern that the levy could deter and reduce the number of tourists visiting Botswana, thus negatively affecting their business. When asked about the impact of the levy on tourists coming to Botswana, Moiteela said it does not have an impact on the country in general. “Our biggest problem is that although the levy may not have an impact on Botswana as a country, it may affect perceptions about Botswana as a tourist destination,” said Moiteela. The Director of Naga Safaris Kenson Kgaga said the tourism levy will reduce the number of tourists and this will affect small operators negatively. Kgaga said already tourists are complaining that Botswana tourism is expensive. Kgaga also complained that there was no consultation. He learnt that funds from the levy will be used to develop road infrastructure and refurbish airports but wondered why nothing is improving, despite that the tourism sector injecting millions of Pula into the economy every year.

Meanwhile, Chief Economist (Modelling & Research) at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Batane Matekane has hailed the sector for its contribution to the economy. Matekane – presenting on Current Economic Outlook and Tourism Status in Botswana at the recent HATAB conference – said tourism as measured by Hotels & Restaurants has become one of the major contributors of growth in the economy. "Travel and tourism generated 32 000 jobs directly in 2014, representing 4.6 percent of total employment. This was forecast to grow by 2.6 percent in 2015 to reach 32 500 or 4.6 percent of total employment," he said. The sector is forecast to contribute 87 000 jobs or 10.9 percent of total employment in Botswana by 2025.