Cancelled bookings mount in election build-up
Local tour operators confirmed cancellations of bookings by international travellers in the last two months prior to the General Elections.
While some reason it is because of the drying up of the Okavango Delta, others maintain it is due to the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the elections.
Speaking to Okavango Voice this week, the owner of a mobile safari company in Maun, Bayei Letsatsi, said, “It is true we suffered a lot of cancellations. Not only my company, but all tour operators have experienced the same problem since August.” Despite the hype surrounding the election, Letsatsi feels the cancellations are more to do with the country’s on-going drought.
“What you have to understand is that, above Moremi Game Reserve, we sell the Delta. That is the main attracter of tourists into our area.” However, he noted it was common for tourists to shun African countries during elections.
“It does not only happen to Botswana. Generally tourists avoid travelling to African countries who are holding elections. They avoid election seasons and would rather go to neighbouring countries. They have that fear around elections. They think we may have civil unrest and protests during and post elections!” explained Letsatsi.
Another tour operator, Kenson Kgaga, who is also a Chairman of the Botswana Guides Association (BOGA) confirmed experiencing a number of cancelled bookings.
“The problem is the drought, not elections!” he maintained. Kgaga, who at the time was a councillor for Boro ward, stated that many tourists come to Botswana to enjoy the delta and boat cruises. Thus it makes sense that the dry spell influences them to choose other destinations.
Just last week, Reaboka Mbulawa, who runs a group of safari companies around Maun and in the Okavango Delta, revealed the industry had been hit by cancellations since the start of October.
“This is an early sign that the tourists are reacting to the possible instability by choosing other destinations avoiding Botswana elections deliberately,” reasonedMbulawa, who at the time of the interview had been running for Maun West constituency.
Nonetheless, the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) claims they have not been informed of any cancelled bookings.
Indeed, HATAB’s Public Affairs and Communications Manager, Tebogo Ramakgathi said, “We have not received any report from operators and I don’t think international travellers have anything to fear from Botswana elections. We have never had cancellations of bookings owing to fear of elections outcome.”