Lessons from Botswana’s progressive tourism policies

At the just-concluded African Tourism Leadership Forum, which was held at Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC), an African president took the high net worth audience from a level of knowledge to a higher and exemplary one.

For Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, tourism is beyond the gathering at that plush venue; it is real business, it is economy booster, it is the live of the people, it moves the world, and should be taken seriously.

Of course, the excited president, whose country hosts the Southern African Development Community (SADC), recognizes the important place tourism occupies in his country and in turn, his government is giving tourism the priority it requires to grow, attract more foreigners willing to spend their hard currencies, create jobs and make more of his people happy as well as boost the economy.

To that end, the president was bold to offer insights and his efforts at making tourism count in Botswana. Some of these insights were heard for the first time by most of the well-travelled audiences at the ATLF 2022.

To aid faster recovery of tourism from the impact of the pandemic and to grow the sector in the country, the president and his team formulated enabling policies in 2021.

The policies were with human face, as the citizens have been encouraged to participate actively or increase their levels of participation to boost tourism’s gross impact on livelihoods, and the economy.

“In 2021, we announced a new tourism policy that promotes active citizen participation in the tourism sector. Botswana’s tourism adaptation of the Value Chain business is underpinned by the principles of Citizen economic empowerment, job creation, tourism product diversification and investment growth as espoused in the Botswana Tourism Policy of 2021,” the president said in his address at ATLF 2022.

Read also: South Africa excites tourism industry at WTM London

“This policy emphasizes product development and diversification as a key driver of growth within the tourism industry, and views the promotion of adventure and cultural tourism as an opportunity to attract more arrivals locally, regionally, and globally to complement our traditional wildlife tourism offering.”

The policies were targeted at six major areas of impact; events tourism, cluster development, cultural tourism development, community project development, community projects and dams Tourism.

Today, the policies have aided product development and diversification, which has resulted in improved tourist traffic into the country.

The development has also aided the faster recovery of tourism from the impact of the pandemic in Botswana.

A boost to the president’s action is the fact that if you engage in more tourism products development, it implies that more hands will be engaged, more skill developed, more money made and more people happy.

Apart from diversifying the offerings and opening a plethora of attractions to choose from, some tourism experts argued that a policy that allows more participation of the citizens will increase productivity, resulting in economic diversification.

Moreover, the move towards increased activity, according to him, will play a positive role in the economy and creating employment in varied geographical locations.

But, there is need for collaboration to ensure that the policy thrives hence he said, “All these can only be achieved through forums like this one, characterized by collaborations between governments, our citizens, the private sector, and our friends from around the world who are providing new skills and innovation for the tourism industry in Africa to thrive.”

To truly create new tourism products, President Masisi noted that Botswana tourism should bear in mind the shift in the industry, occasioned by new thinking and unique desires by today’s tourists.

The shift, according to him, implies that developers of new tourism products should latch onto technology and all the trendy devices to lure, grow and retain tourist traffic in Botswana.

The president concluded by calling for the need to adapt to the changing tourism world, saying,“Industries are looking to adopt strategies to future-proof their business and to navigate rapidly changing technological landscapes. I, therefore, urge you to take this time to have an in-depth analysis of the trends and forecasts influencing travel patterns, and how you can take advantage of the opportunities that they bring to us in the tourism sector.”

The gathering applauded him for the insight, especially Kwakye Donkor, CEO, African Tourism Partners, the organisers of ATLF 2022, for showing example for his colleagues across Africa to emulate, at least encouraging their citizens to participate more in tourism based on their various capacities.

Meanwhile, Philda Kereng, minister of Environment and Tourism, Botswana, is making concerted efforts, alongside her team members at the Botswana Tourism Board, to ensure that Mr. President’s new policy on tourism development, starting from domestic end is actualized.

A big lesson to learn by those who want tourism to count in their country as it is counting in Botswana today.

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