Domestic tourism growth needs imagination

SHARE   |   Sunday, 31 August 2014   |   By Shingirai Madondo

The growth of domestic tourism is hinged on the ability of the players in the industry to think outside the box and ensure that local people appreciate tourist attraction spread across the country. This was said by the Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Minister, Tshekedi Khama recently.

In an interview with The Patriot on Sunday on the sidelines of the just ended Makgadikgadi Epic last Sunday, Khama said the only way Botswana would reap the benefits of domestic tourism is if tourism industry players are imaginative.

According to Khama, domestic tourism’s growth is hinged on the industry’s ability to sell its services and products to the people. Khama said local players in the tourism industry have been focusing on international tourists only without taking advantage of the locals.

Promotion of domestic tourism will boost the sector’s mandate as one of the key drivers of growth and major contributors to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and create employment, he said.

“The tourism industry of Botswana is ever evolving. I think we need to be imaginative and (focus on) what aspects we need to market to develop,” said Khama.

“What we need to do is to look at how we diversify our tourism. Tourism is fine when we talk about bringing people from outside the borders of Botswana but we also have domestic tourism which is defined as staying at some other place for more than one night,” he said.

The minister said one thing that the country needs to do is to take tourism to various parts of the country where it does not exist and then borrow on the back of culture, aesthetics of that feature and look at other aspects that can be brought on the fore.

He gave an example of the annual Khawa Dune Challenge where Polka dance was discovered when it started as a mere challenge at the dunes.

“People would eventually have the unique ways that they could showcase in the form of  traditional cuisine,” said Khama, adding that the inaugural edition of the Makgadikgadi Epic managed to attract almost 2 000 visitors.

According to Khama, pulling a crowd of over 2 000 people during the first edition of the Makgadikgadi Epic was a fantastic experience that shows a great potential to grow beyond that.

The success of Chinese tourism in terms of outbound travel is born out of their own willingness to experience domestic tourism. Khama urged Batswana to take a leaf from the Chinese and start visiting various tourist attractions in Botswana.

This comes as industry experts in Africa have been calling for the strengthening of domestic tourism to help cushion the impact of external financial effects caused by economic recessions.

Experts have argued that the reinforcement of domestic tourism was cardinal because it will help sustain the sector in the event that foreign tourist arrivals slow down.