Could tourism replace mining as the economy’s mainstay?
Ever since the early days of Independence, the local economy has been heavily reliant on the mining industry, with diamonds making up the backbone.
However, the sparkly gemstones will not last forever.
When the pipelines eventually run dry, which one day they inevitably will, the country must look to different sectors for sustainability.
Before mining came to the fore, agriculture was a crucial contributor to the economy.
Sadly, the sector is in ruins and looks unlikely to recover any time soon.
Where then does the economy’s salvation lie?
The Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) CEO Lily Rakorong is adamant tourism holds the key.
She is confident the sector could drive the economy should something go wrong in the mining industry.
Speaking to Voice Money following the just ended HATAB annual conference in Kasane, Rakorong noted that the tourism sector could thrive even more when approached with strategies such as Public Private Partnerships.
The sector’s current contribution to the Botswana GDP is estimated at 4.9 percent, employing close to 20, 000.
Rakorong further stressed it was vital that communities benefit directly from tourism activities happening in their areas.
She ruefully admitted that such communities currently receive precious little from the tourism industry and are largely relegated to mere spectators.
The CEO explained this would include access to funding for those who want to participate in the industry, adding HATAB is pushing for inclusive tourism.
A number of policies are said to be underway while others have already been implemented to accommodate citizens in the participation of the tourism sector.
In his speech at the conference, Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila revealed that several initiatives have been undertaken such as the development of the National Tourism Strategy.
“Tourism has the greatest potential and so we have to get our policies right. As we speak we are finalising the Tourism Policy. The Tourism Policy of 1990 is sitting on my desk; I’m taking it to cabinet in the shortest possible time and would love to see it before parliament in June!” said Mokaila.
Another key government-led scheme involves the Land Bank Management, which has seen its administration taken to rightful land authorities.
Mokaila further announced that a decision has been taken for communities with concessions to directly sign leases with operators. He explained this was designed to ensure that as hosts, there is ownership and ultimately a feeling of responsibility to protect natural resources.
Although citizen participation in the industry has improved over the years, ownership of major tourism businesses remains skewed towards non-citizens.