Thursday, 22 September 2016

BOTSWANA: Tourism Ministry Confirms Using Outdated Data

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Elias Magosi has admitted that his ministry continues to rely on outdated data when making key decisions regarding the tourism industry in the country.

At the same time, policymakers and investors in tourism sector presently rely mostly on external sources of data for the domestic tourism sector, due to the complex statistical challenge the industry has historically faced.

When appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday, Magosi admitted that so far the data on tourism activities in the country is outdated and that his ministry is working around the clock to ensure that it is updated.

“We are working hand in hand with the government statistics office to ensure that we update the data”, Magosi told PAC on Friday.

The last data on the contribution of tourism to the country’s GDP, wealth creation and job creation is for 2010 and government authorities continue to provide conflicting data regarding its contribution to the economy.

Magosi’s admission come after there have been numerous calls to update both the data as well as policy governing the sector.

In 2015, when making his remarks at the annual Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB), its chairman, Dr Thapelo Matsheka raised concerns about the level of secrecy in the tourism sector.

Dr Matsheka warned that if left unattended the issue of high unpredictability and lack of transparency will dent investor confidence. To demonstrate his case, Matsheka gave an example about the establishment of a land bank in the sector, for which Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) was tasked in 2008.

“In 2008, the Ministry of Wildlife and Tourism through the BTO sought to establish a land bank of all concession areas which would allow government to directly influence allocation as well as utilisation through competitive bid of the management plans for both existing operators and the broader market. This was intended to access the true market value and potential of concession areas. Regrettably this has been caught up in unclear allocation criteria and as we speak a number of concession areas remain without a decision of whether to renew for existing operators with the resultant uncertainty to roll out expansion plans by existing operators”, Matsheka said.

Apart from the land bank, Matsheka says in 2011, HATAB compiled and submitted a report entailing a list of impediments that affect business operations in the tourism sector to the government of Botswana but to date no action has been taken.