BTO has just had 74 local tour operators act as an assurance of Botswana’s resilience to 95 international agents from 25 countries that are in no doubt that this country remains a top-of-mind tourism destination for travellers, writes GOSEGO MOTSUM
The travel peak and festive season is here and Botswana Tourism Organisation’s (BTO) flagship event, BTTVE, has set the mood by staging its first virtual showcase to offer unique business opportunities to the international travel industry and establish partnerships with local industry players.
Celebrating its first year under the new normal, the tourism showcase hosted 74 local operators and 95 international agents from 25 countries, adding a “V” for virtual in a vital concession to the COVID-19 pandemic that also holds out the hope of emerging victorious in the end.
“COVID-19 will not stop our tourism offering and we are ready to welcome you,” said the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng, at the official opening of this year’s Botswana Travel and Tourism Virtual Expo at Phakalane in Gaborone North.
“BTTVE happens at a time when we cannot meet in person and, as a an industry that has been hard hit by COVID-19, it is important that we gather in other forms so that we continue to strengthen our global networks as we navigate our way towards recovery of the industry. I would like to applaud the industry’s tour operators for being resilient and remaining resolute that in the state of COVID-19 we have stayed believing and hopeful.”
In October this year, Botswana announced the lifting of international restrictions with protocols for compliance eight months after borders closed for control of COVID-19. With international tourists beginning to arrive in the country, the ailing tourism industry is expected to revive. Kereng said since the reopening of borders at the beginning of this month, it was an exciting moment to welcome the first flight, which was from Switzerland. For local tourism, the government has devised special tourism permits across zones to allow Batswana and residents to travel around.
“We managed to convince government for this reopening through operators who demonstrated their ability to contain and manage the spread of the virus in their establishments,” Kereng said. “Our industry is compliant and ready. We have been tried and tested during the September holidays (Botswana Day) when we did not register any incident in relation to COVID-19. To our clients, get ready to explore; December is here.”
The CEO of BTO, Myra Sekgororoane, said the decision to continue with BTTVE was borne out of their determination to find ways of ensuring the industry’s resilience and positioning Botswana’s tourism for global appreciation, recognition and relevance beyond the global pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of strong partnerships in travel and tourism, and we look forward to an even more enhanced relationship with tour operators and buyers globally to ensure that Botswana remains a top-of-mind tourism destination for travellers,” Sekgororoane said.
For his part, the Chairperson of BTO, Boitumelo Sekwababe, said they staged the first-ever virtual BTTE during a time when conversations around travel and tourism were important as they learnt how sustainability in the tourism business sets a powerful and indispensable tool for navigating the turbulent waters of today’s global economy. “The discussions we had around sustainable business practices between the public, private and community sectors during such a time were nothing short of inspiring,” said Sekwababe.
The BTTVE destination workshops hosted on the same day of the launch focused on informing international agents of Botswana’s beautiful landscapes and its flora and fauna, giving a detailed insight into exclusive and unique experience of Botswana’s various tourism products. They also played a vital role reassuring trade partners that indeed the country is ready to welcome clients back.