UNESCO has added several new global treasures to its list of World Heritage sites, bringing the total number of protected places to 1001.
Top of the list is the wildlife-rich Okavango delta in Botswana. It contains a number of endangered species and is unusual in that it is inland and does not flow into a sea. It also floods during the dry season, which has produced a unique ecosystem.
Speaking at the third roundtable of African ministers on world heritage sites on Saturday June 21 in Doha before the listing, the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama said that Botswana would continue to create a conducive environment for the protection and integrity of her sites and ensure that communities derive benefits from these sites.
The minister said progress had been made in improving the state of conservation of World Heritage properties through increased community participation, citing Tsodilo Hills.
“The government of Botswana in partnership with civil society organisations has developed a project proposal to implement the community development aspect of the plan and has been supported by the Diamond Trust to the tune of P10 million,” Khama said.
“The project has ensured that all categories of the Tsodilo Community derive economic benefits from the project,” he said adding that “employment and income generation opportunities have been created through guiding, craft production, entrance fees and camping fees.”
The minister announced that plans were underway to develop two lodges of which the community would lease to the private sector. Also, Government has approved a funding proposal for P1 million to train young people on tourism related courses as well as prepare them for the upcoming developments in the area.
Meanwhile, the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) aims to market and promote Botswana as a premier tourist destination, to grade and classify tourist facilities as well as to promote investment and drive product diversification in the tourism sector.
BTO priorities are mainly focused on product diversification and on providing high quality service standards and embarking on strategies that exceed customer expectations as well as building customer confidence locally and internationally. This is in line with the organisational vision of ‘developing Botswana into a unique preferred tourism destination of choice, in order to increase the sector’s contribution to the nation’s economic growth’.