Unless there is a policy intervention from the government on the functionalities of Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO), players in the tourism sector will not be able to reap the benefits derivable from the hospitality industry.
Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) executive committee chairperson, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka decried this at the association’s 2018 annual conference in the resort township of Maun recently. “There is need for our Government to continue to ensure that the environment in Botswana remains healthy for private sector participation,” observed a visibly worried Matsheka at the conference.
Matsheka added: “Such should include the mandates of organizations that are created in the form of parastatals, in an effort to facilitate business growth. It has to start with the revision of the Tourism Policy of 1991, Tourism Master-Plan of 2000, Wildlife and National Parks Act, Environment Impact Assessment Act and Regulations as well as other related documents.”
According to Matsheka, outdated policies guiding the tourism sector need to be modernized as, they are the necessary tools needed to enable the industry to meet customer expectations in the modern world. “Such should include the mandates of organizations that are created in the form of parastatals, in an effort to facilitate business growth. To that extend, we as HATAB call upon Government to review the mandate and activities of the Botswana Tourism Organization,” he appealed.
The HATAB boss lunched a veiled broadside at BTO saying the organization seems to have recently transformed into a participant through its continued activities that are in direct competition with the private sector. “As an example, BTO has deliberately gone into direct competition with the Matsieng Air Show and are hosting its own Gaborone Air Show around the same time. We are of the opinion that Government agencies should rather assist private sector initiatives rather than compete with them,” he noted with concern.
Matsheka added: “More so that they are using public sector funds that could have been directed towards the promotion and marketing of Botswana as a destination. We also call upon authorities to align all issues pertaining to concessions and their renewal and or allocation.” “We have noted that there is increasing delay in processing such application, and when processed, industry often notes that there is inconsistency in the conditions of operation,” lamented the HATAB boss.
For instance, Matsheka said some industry players are given automatic renewal while others are subjected to a tender process at the end of their tenure. All this, he said, casts uncertainties on investor confidence as well as creating a perceived preferential treatment of some over others. “Such practices are not conducive to a friendly and fair investment environment in a democratically and open market society,” quipped Matsheka. Endless efforts to get a comment from BTO proved futile, as their phones rang unanswered until press time.