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The sky’s a limit

Baitshepi Sekgweng
STRUGGLING: Air Botswana

Lack of direct flights into Bots hurts local tourism

Botswana’s limitations in the sky, with a shortage of direct flights into the country, have been highlighted as a huge challenge to the growth of local tourism.

As it stands, straight flights to BW are only available from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Visitors flying from anywhere else in the world have to connect in these three countries before moving on to Botswana, an inconvenience and even enough of a deterrent to stop some from coming!

With national airliner, Air Botswana, struggling to really take off, the situation looks unlikely to improve any time soon.

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According to available statistics, 57 percent of tourists who visit Botswana use transfer hubs en route.

The Managing Director (MD) of Tourism Business Intelligence, Sen Ramsamy says these numbers must change if local tourism is to realise its full potential.

“Botswana remains dependent on hubs as a result of absence of direct flights. In future this is a key area which needs to be addressed. I hope Botswana will be developing this in the near future because connections remain a key issue,” said Ramsamy, when delivering on the National MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) tourism strategy for Botswana at the just ended Travel & Tourism Expo, held in Kasane from 29 November to 3 December.

Ramsamy encouraged Air Botswana to cash in on the growing MICE potential offered by countries in the region, in terms of ferrying both cargo and people.

Highlighting the market’s increasing possibilities, it was noted that by 2040, South Africa’s population is expected to hit 69.7 million, Zimbabwe’s 22.9 million and Namibia 3.3 million (the same as is predicted for Botswana).

Moving from the sky to the stars, Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Keitumetse Setlang said though intent is to stimulate the sector’s recovery and growth, there are challenges ahead.

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“Lower star ratings are a challenge, more especially in guesthouses, while some hotels are struggling to attain ratings. Some licenced properties do not conform to licencing and grading requirements, you will find guesthouses with conference rooms and bars, shared bathrooms and some rooms without windows,” noted Setlang, explaining that non-compliance to grading requirements lead to a number of establishments getting conditional star ratings.

As it stands, from 799 available facilities around the country, only 34 received 5-star gradings.

BW’s graded accomodation

5 Stars – 34

4 Stars – 49

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3 Stars – 90

2 Stars – 261

1 Star – 271

Ungraded – 94

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