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Travel and Tourism: Botswana Opens Its Doors to the World

Nowhere on the African continent can a traveler experience the true timeless beauty of an ancient Eden as in Botswana. Botswana is where the Okavango Delta, Africa's largest inland river delta, meets the endless Kalahari Desert in an explosion of green that feeds and houses some of the continent's most prolific wildlife.

Botswana is also home to Chobe National Park with the largest savanna elephant population in the world, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the first of the new "peace parks" and famous for its black mane lions. With 38% of the country's total land area set aside for parks, game reserves, and wildlife management areas, there is ample opportunity for travelers to experience the wildlife and vistas that make up our vision of Africa.

Often thought of as an exclusive get-away for the wealthy and celebrities, Botswana is proving that there is something here for travelers of all interests and budgets, whether it be the businessman looking for a day safari on his trip to Gaborone, the family driving up from South Africa for a weekend camping trip, or Chinese tourists looking for the ultimate in luxury safaris. As word spreads, opportunities for international investment in the tourism sector are booming.

Tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the Botswana economy, directly and indirectly accounting for nearly 12% of the total GDP, and the government is fully aware of tourism's important contribution to diversifying the mineral-based economy and its ability to create jobs, particularly in rural areas.

According to a major study conducted by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2007 estimated government expenditures for services to Botswana's travel and tourism industry amounted to USD $121.8 million ( 6.1% of total government spending). Of that, USD $91.7 million was spent on tourism related equipment and infrastructure for 5.4% of total capital investment in the country. These figures bode well, as evidenced by travel and tourism growth of 7.3% in 2007, and this may be the tip of the iceberg as active current government measures will continue to expand the industry and open the doors wide for further foreign investment.

Because the ecologically sensitive Okavango and Chobe areas are nearing peak capacity, diversification of tourist offerings presents the greatest opportunity for growth. The government is incentivizing opportunities near and around Gaborone and Francistown, which see the greatest number of business travelers as well as the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Myra Sekgororoane, CEO of the Botswana Tourism Board, discussed this in a recent interview. "Botswana has many beautiful rural locations in addition to the well-known parks. And because tourism is labor-intensive, we are most interested in creating jobs for Batswana in other parts of the country. What's more, Botswana has more than just wildlife and geography; we have wonderful possibilities for cultural and educational tourism as well."

Here are some steps Botswana is taking to rid itself of its reputation as "the best kept secret in Africa":

Creation of the Botswana Tourism Board (BTB):
The BTB was created through an Act of Parliament in 2003 as a state-funded but private organization mandated to "market the Botswana tourist product, grade and classify tourist accommodation facilities, and promote investment in the tourism sector." Government and industry leaders are confident that this central coordinating body will facilitate strong growth in the industry.  

Upgrading and expansion of airports:
During the 2008 Budget Speech, the Hon. Baledzi Gaolathe, Minister of Finance and Development Planning, noted that the Sir Seretse Khama International, Kasane, Maun, and Francistown airports would be upgraded to facilitate, in particular, the growth of the tourism sector." This upgrade will bring more direct flights from tourist source destinations, thus decreasing the time and expense of travel into and out of the country while on tours of the continent.

Sponsorship of the Hollywood movie No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.
Filmed in Botswana, the movie centers around a detective heroine, Madame Precious Ramotswe, known to millions through an extraordinarily popular series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith. The books have sold over 15 million copies and have been translated into over 42 languages. The release of the Hollywood film, which is being directed by award-winning British director Anthony Minghella, before Christmas of 2008 is expected to increase Botswana's profile tremendously as readers and moviegoers alike seek the real thing after their "virtual experience."

With these projected increases in travelers, the need for infrastructure development such as roads, airports, railroads, meeting and convention centers, hotels, lodges, restaurants, gift shops, and everything else that accompanies tourism is substantial. The Botswana government is actively courting investors to grow with them and government officials feel that China is especially well-suited for the task. But Minister Gaolanthe urges investors to act quickly before the shining diamond of Botswana's tourism potential is no longer secret.  


BTB (Botswana Tourism Board) 


+267 391 3111 

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