Tourism’s state of emergency

Kabelo Adamson
SUFFERING INDUSTRY: Tourism industry disadvantaged by the State of Emergency
SoE extension extends industry’s misery

Public listed tourism operator, Chobe Holdings Limited says the second State of Emergency (SoE) extension has proved another massive blow to the already reeling industry.

Originally enforced on 3 April 2020, following two successive extensions, the SoE is set for an 18-month lifespan and will now run until 3 October – unless it is amended again!

As part of the original SoE, Botswana’s borders were closed to tourists, effectively shutting down the country’s second-biggest revenue earner.

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Although the restriction on tourists was lifted late last year, the tourism industry’s recovery has been handcuffed by SoE’s continued off-putting presence.

In a statement accompanying their financial results for the year ended 28 February 2021, Chobe Holdings CEO, Jonathan Gibson explained many western nations advise their citizens not to travel to countries operating under an SoE.

“In many instances, travel insurance cannot be obtained by persons travelling to countries being governed by the SoE due to the connotations attached to the SoE,” noted Gibson, who also serves as the outfit’s Deputy Chairperson.

He further stressed it is important for Botswana to harmonize its Covid-19 protocols with those of neighbouring countries.

“As almost all foreign travellers enter and exit Botswana through neighbouring states, it remains essential our Covid-19 protocols are harmonised with those neighbouring states to safely ease the flow of travellers.”

According to Gibson, the company’s Marketing and Reservations teams report particularly strong interest from its traditional northern hemisphere suppliers. He is adamant that if people are allowed to travel freely, Chobe Holdings and the tourism industry as a whole will ‘recover strongly’.

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“To do so, however, intercontinental air carriers need to be able to re-establish reliable schedules to the sub-continent. Covid-19 protocols on both arrival and departure need to be clearly understood and flawlessly applied and the vaccine roll-out accelerated,” he urged, adding this will protect both the staff and the guests.

Mirroring the sector’s devastating recent struggles, the last year has been disastrous for Chobe Holdings. The company reported a 93 percent drop in revenue, plummeting from P373.9 million to P27.8 million in the current financial period.

There was also an 89 percent decrease in occupancy levels, whilst profit after tax dipped by a massive 170 percent to a loss of P67.8 million. The organisation also received P9.6 million from the government as a wage subsidy.

“The financial results for the year under review reflect the continuing impact of Covid-19 on the tourism industry worldwide,” reflected Gibson grimly.

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