Batswana still reluctant to travel locally

For human beings, travel is essential and enriching.  With each trip the traveller grows and this is the sum of meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.  As the year winds down, many Batswana will be hit by the travel bug and take the opportunity to down tools and seek new adventure. Unfortunately many, who have never travelled the country in the past, will forgo touring Botswana and opt for other destinations, South Africa being the most popular.
In a recent report by CNN Travel Advisor on the 26 Most Stunning Places to Visit in Africa, Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans was listed as number 11 while Nxai Pan National Park was listed as number 21. Although Botswana boasts some of the continent’s best tourist attractions, they are still not high on Batswana’s preference list, something which the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Neil Fitt  attributes to the perceived shortcomings of these destinations by locals, like the simple lack of night life amongst other things.

At the recent Tourism Pitso which was held at Fairgrounds Boipuso Hall, Marketing and Investment Promotion Director at Botswana Tourism Organization BTO, Malebogo Morakaladi disclosed that, “90% of people who make the bulk of tourists in nature areas are from the international sphere. Batswana rarely travel within the country and this notion is attached to many reasons such as the lack of night life in tourist attractions as well as the price packages in these areas. However, from the statistics that were recorded in 2010, it shows that from the 2.1 million international visitors that came into the country, there was P4.7 billion expenditure while P991 million expenditure was from domestic travels.”

According to local travel agent Tumisang Seabed of Khudu travel, “Most of our local clients prefer to travel outside the country and the bookings we make are usually for places such as South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, China, and Malaysia. We rarely get people making bookings to travel inland which is sad because our country has many nice places where one can go and relax. ”

This sentiment is echoed by local traveller,Tlamelo  Ramodise who,  even though has travelled the country extensively,  finds that, “tourism companies here are not putting enough emphasis on attracting locals to visit tourist destinations in their areas. There are a lot of cool camping activities to be explored. Botswana is a premier safari destination in Africa offering some of the best wildlife viewing on the planet, especially in and around the Chobe and Okavango Delta region. The Kalahari Desert and San Bushman culture is another of this country’s great attractions and should be on everyone’s itinerary.  I can only hope that Batswana take the time to really know their country as opposed to always being the first to rush for those Maputo or Cape Town packages.”

International traveller, Motlalepula Bagamang said as a young motswana, a holiday in Botswana is more out of budget as compared to going into South Africa or Mozambique. “You feel like you are getting value for your money as opposed to paying lots of money for a bed, breakfast and a game drive. I feel like these tourist attractions are targeted at a certain kind of market which is high end and let’s face it, most Batswana don’t fit into that market. As long as the prices are that high, we will always rush for the Maputo packages, or a week long of exploring New York or Bali,” she said. In an effort to boost the tourism portfolio in the north,  the Botswana Tourism Organization has focused its efforts  on the the Kasane/Kazungula area which,  besides playing host to a wide diversity of flora and fauna,  also offers tourist the opportunity to visit three other countries with an equally diverse tourism portfolio.  At the recent Tourism Pitso, the BTO disclosed plans to develop other attractions in the town of Kasane that include conference centres, restaurants and residential areas located by the riverfront. Even though the statement did not mention the commencement date of the project, it stated that BTO’s intention is to create space for commercial tourism by giving tourists an opportunity to convene and network with each other in one place.