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We’ll be back

Tourism sector on the recovery path

Although the tourism industry is yet to roar, it is slowly but surely finding its voice.

After almost 18 months of lockdowns and travel bans, the sector is showing signs of recovery, with plans underway to position Botswana as a tourist destination of choice.

This was the underlying message at the just ended Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) Conference held at Travel Lodge in Kasane, under the theme: Rebuilding Tourism for the future; Post Covid-19.

In a weekend where HATAB also celebrated 40 years of existence, its Chairperson, Joe Motse called the theme ‘fitting’ following one of the most uncertain periods in the industry’s history.

The Chairperson noted they have gone through tough times and should be happy they managed to pull through, despite the loss of considerable business since 2019.

He added there were promising signs of the industry’s revival in areas such as Maun, Chobe and other parts of the country.

“The industry is waking up, and we believe that if we keep going in this trend, we’ll be back on our feet ASAP,” declared Motse.

The HATAB Chairperson’s sentiments were shared by the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Philda Kereng.

The Minister rallied captains of the industry to rise up and start the rebuilding process after nearly losing an industry built in 40 tough years to the Covid-19 scourge.

“This is affirmation of you resilience as a sector. You’ve never doubted that one day you’ll be back,” said Kereng, who commended the tourism industry for taking a leading role and helping in the formulation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which became a bedrock and helped government create a cushion for the rest of the economy

She stressed that while they should rightly celebrate surviving the pandemic, going forward HATAB must strive to build something even better than what they had before Covid hit.

“Because of the hard lockdowns that caused psychosocial impacts on people, these tourists want experiences that can heal them and restore their emotions and make them feel human again,” Kereng continued, adding there’s a need to expand products, be innovative and incorporate culture, sports and agro-tourism.

She explained that in all the tourism summits they attend across the world, including the 2021 event in Kenya and the recent one in Dubai, they always position Botswana as the tourism destination of choice.

In her brief address, the HATAB Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Lilly Rakorong called for collaboration between Heads of Missions and Ambassadors to help the sector venture into new markets. She said it was important that they are up to speed with what is on the ground, the market intelligence and new trends.

“We need facilitation to link industry players to other markets, and know what the markets are demanding in order to be ready,” she said.

“If you’re based in Jewish countries for instance we need to know their expectations, to allow us to prepare. We also want to know how we can have market access, access to offices of High Commissioners, directly or indirectly and collaborate more with you to enable us to penetrate the market,” closed Rakorong.