With a US$299 (P3 000) per night accommodation cost in some of the primed tourists sites in Botswana locals have often been left out of enjoying the beauty of their country. However, some insist that the cost is worth it due to the incredible beauty of the area and the fact that the environment needs to be conserved. ONTAMETSE SUGAR reports
There is no doubt that Botswana is soaring as a tourist destination, attracting elite travellers to the Okavango Delta, Chobe and other areas. But one thing that the tourism providers have shown is that beauty does not come cheap, as most people from areas surrounding these nice places do not even have the money to afford to see them. Savuti, Khwai and Linyanti are three of the elegant campsites that draw in the elite from abroad, but do not come cheap for a regular Motswana. Bookings here are exclusively done in US Dollars. Rachel Mbulawa, the daughter of one of the owners of the campsites, explained the reasons behind the heavy pricing structure. Savuti, Khwai and Linyanti are unique campsites in prime national parks. These tented campsites have services that a hotel does, though not on a permanent structure because they also have to make sure that they do not impact the environment anyhow. “It is just a hotel in the middle of nowhere but just that canvas was used, but when inside there is no much difference or it is even better than the one on a permanent structure, she said.
On what makes them exceptional and quite attractive to many even though most Batswana regard them as expensive, Mbulawa said it is their model that makes them exclusive, because they are in the middle of nowhere and in a place that is not tapped on. “Imagine coming all the way to the middle of nowhere and there is so much to see, wildlife around you and nature, and that is why most people will assume it is expensive,” she said. She said clients appreciate more what they see and that is why they never have a problem with the fee. Their client base is mostly from European countries which are Germany, UK, Netherlands and a little bit of Australia and the American market. She said they are beginning to have locals turning up to enjoy their product, which is something that they have always wanted. They strive to offer high quality and this has resulted with most people believing that campsites are foreign-owned. She revealed that they are regulated by Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), and hence do not just price as they wish.
Savuti has proven to be very popular and Mbulawa said it is because the camp is very attractive. The BBC World and National Geographic Channel have run documentaries on it. “This is where you can see a lot of species of animals,” she said. It hosts different leopards, lions, Zebras and buffaloes. She said there are paintings that show that Basarwa must have stayed there. She said that is a match that anyone always loves to see because it is animals in their nature where one can see lions on the prowl and even coming closer to their prey. She urged Batswana to come and see these places. For a Motswana it takes P100 to get in for camping and they can always go to different places that are affordable. She said when someone wants to sleep at Savuti they have the cheapest room at a citizen price of US $299 per night, which she does not think is very expensive. “Batswana should just come and see these places, they will realise it is worth it,” she said.
The minister of Tourism Tshekedi Khama hailed the high value-low impact product that Botswana offers, saying it minimises the flow of people to places of high value. He said there are places in Botswana that are so unique with no other place that is like them in the world. “This is the diversity of the products that Botswana wants to offer. It is about conservation, conservation, conservation,” he reiterated. He added that he does not think Botswana is expensive at all but it is because of the offerings that the country has while conserving the ecosystem.