The Minister of Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, says Botswana must consistently evaluate the industry’s economic, environmental and social impact locally to ensure the sector remains sustainable and relevant. Khama, who described this as “responsible tourism”, said this approach would serve to minimise negative environmental impacts, while generating greater economic benefit for locals and enhancing the well-being of their host communities.
He was speaking at the just ended annual international tourism symposium hosted by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Kasane, where he urged stakeholders to ensure that the wider community is kept abreast of things that are happening within the sector.
Khama further called on the support of his cabinet ministries such as the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to wholly scrutinize international tourism bookings and payments so that the wider tourism community can fully benefit.
Khama’s remarks come amid claims that some private concession owners continue to invest all their booking revenues outside the country thus making it difficult to regulate their annual returns and further leaving their host communities living in poverty.
The UNWTO symposium had brought together various stakeholders and sustainable tourism experts from around the world, all dedicated to advantaging sustainable tourism globally particularly focusing on applying innovative approaches.
Quizzed why communities living in prime tourism areas continue to live under poverty or seemingly deplorable conditions, Khama said regulations and laws are not yet in place to effectively force private concessions owners to invest the money they make in Botswana or declare how much they have made from the tourism product.
According to recent statistics, about 42% of Batswana live within tourism areas.
“It’s a serious concern. I have been talking to the Finance Ministry to fasten regulations on properly auditing every operator. Take for instance if operator X has made a fortune, they would cleverly give audit of at least 40% and therefore communities will benefit only 6%. It is wrong and my hands are tight. This is why we continue to see these operators open other investments in other countries. If the audits show they’re not making much monies, where are they getting the funding from,” he asked.
Meanwhile, Khama said he is happy with the speed at which the operators have accelerated eco-tourism; a sustainable tourism he says will eventually become the number one economic contributor. He added whilst they await the Finance Ministry to improve regulations, communities will be given land to lease for 15 years where they will be inspected every 5 years – through a joint venture partnership with Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO).
The UNWTO symposium ended on Friday after pinning its focus on tourism and conservation planning, circulatory in tourism value chains, financing innovation in tourism, local perspective on sustainable development, conservation and tourism, as well as marketing of sustainability.