As businesses that cater for Hollywood A-listers and royalty from all over the world, hospitality establishments in the Okavango Delta have exceptionally high international standards. However, as a Private Sector Development Programme report notes, all too often these establishments are misaligned with their immediate locale. “One challenge for the tourism value chain is the mismatch between product quality and customer expectations. In the Okavango Delta and Kasane destinations, the qual¬ity of the accommodation product and experiences (i.e. particularly safaris) is high. However once one leaves the hotel or lodge, the quality of product and services drops significantly,” says a tourism value chain analysis plan that was developed for PSDP by European consultants.
That is indeed the case and using Shakawe as an example, there is a yawning gap between accommodation product and experiences of Drotsky Cabins and the quality of services and products in the village. Customer service standards at Drotsky, which is a little way off the Shakawe-Maun road, are First World-high enough to make one delude himself into thinking he is a king. On the other hand, if that person goes into the village and through local shops, he is immediately dethroned and (literally) gets a rude awakening that you are in the Third World where the customer is sometimes seen as a nuisance. At one shop, customers who want to try on clothes are told to use the toilet as a fitting room. In Gaborone, an international traveller who wants to indulge in a bit of revelry is spoiled for choice in terms of high-end gastropubs; conversely, in Shakawe s/he has to settle for snooker-and-jukebox neighbourhood bars where, using the same pair of hands, the barmaid alternates cleaning toilets with serving customers.
As the PSDP report cautions, mismatched service and product standards compromise Botswana’s tourism value chain. The particular problem for the country happens to be that, in the main, it is currently attracting high-end customers. “This misalignment is decreasing the potential spend directly into the local market and thereby decreasing linkages in the value chain. In Gaborone, the number of higher-end restaurants is better, however the overall experience in regards to product and experience is not on equivalent to other major business centers in Southern Africa,” the report says. With particular regard to Kasane, the report notes that in order to strengthen value chain linkages locally, support institutions agreed that there was a need for improved cooperation between enterprises, to work as a cluster and combine their efforts - like in marketing and supporting licensing processes. “They also supported the idea of allocating or reserving some licenses for local enterprises. Improvements in quality and skills development were also necessary,” it adds.