Tourism needs diversification- Hatab

Mokoro: Popular tourist service in the Delta

Maun remains a tourism hub and makes up the majority membership of Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB), the organisation’s Public Affairs and Communications Manager, Tebogo Ramakgathi has said.

Speaking during a recent media engagement at a popular boat station in Chanoga, in the outskirts of Maun, Ramakgathi explained that Maun makes up more than eighty-five percent (85%) of HATAB’s membership with Kasane and Gaborone sharing the lowest numbers.

“Gaborone’s percentage is small because you will find out that it is only hotels, same with Kasane, its percentage is small as it is hotels and few camps but here (Maun) you have your air charter, camps and lodges, hotels and mobile safaris,” further explained Ramakgathi.

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Currently HATAB’s membership includes more than seventy percent of all registered and operating tourism enterprises in the country- including among others, camps and lodges, hotels, mobile safaris, tour operators, air charters and airlines, conservation and wildlife management.

With most of these services and businesses located in Maun and surrounding areas including the Okavango Delta, HATAB secretariat says it will frequent Maun this year where it will be sharing information on its membership’s corporate social responsibility among other important projects.

The secretariat team was in Maun last week as it prepared for HATAB’s annual conference which will be held next month in Maun from 13 to 14th April, 2023.

Vice President Slumber Tsogwane is scheduled to officiate at the meeting where a lead spokesperson in Mauritius hospitality industry, Jocelyn Kwok, will be a guest of honour. Kwok is a Chief Executive Officer of Association of Hotels and Restaurants in that country and according to Ramakgathi HATAB has extended the invitation to him so that Botswana can learn from his country which is often rated among the best in tourism rankings.

“We know through global competitiveness report on tourism that Mauritius is always ahead and we want to benchmark and see how they do it because if we do things right, Botswana should be able to go higher,” added Ramakgathi who expressed concern at the continued drop of Botswana’s standards. “Our standards have dropped, in 2019 we were at 10.6 right now we are at 6.1. We are declining, we are slowly but surely declining and these things affect the ease of doing business, especially when you compare Botswana with other countries.”

However she maintains that as the tourism sector that has just emerged from devastating effects of COVID-19, they are confident that they will one day overtake the mining sector which is currently the main contributor to the country’s economy through diamonds.

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Currently Tourism comes second after mining in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) contribution and Ramakgathi insists, “If we do things right and given the opportunity, we can beat the mining industry.”

Her contention is that COVID-19 was a wake up call to the tourism sector and has taught them to diversify and understand that the industry is more than travel, hotels, culture, the beautiful landscapes, the wilderness and airlines, but rather more is involved including food, sports, transport and health among others.

“That is why we have the annual Kazungula marathon, we are talking land concessions and many more because before COVID we thought the sector was resilient and that nothing can ever come and shake us, but COVID did,” added Ramakgathi,

Her further contention was that there is need for diversity in the tourism and hospitality sector hence they are advocating for more land, concessions and leases as the aim is to attract more investors to the country or add value in terms of diversifying activities.

One of the tour operators based in Maun, Sethunya Botshabelo, added that being a member of HATAB is beneficial and has helped citizen owned businesses like hers to grow and have a say in decision making processes. “A quick example that comes to mind is during COVID-19 when our businesses were down, when some were thinking of closing shop. Through HATAB we voiced our concerns and we survived through the tourism salary subsidy.”

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