Botswana Tourism Organisation CEO, Thabo Dithebe says the high turn out experienced at this year’s Khawa Dune Challenge and Cultural Festival hosted in the village of Khawa is a clear sign that the event has grown since its inception in 2012. According to Dithebe their statistics reveal that more than 14 000 people who are mostly Batswana from all corners of the country came out to have fun at this year’s event.
“Developing tourism takes a bit of time but I can tell you from the five years when we came here this place was not the way it is today. People started to realize that there is a village called Khawa and all the social amenities have improved,” he said adding that in the first event they had 2000 spectators and less than 50 riders versus last year ‘s 7000 spectators and 75 riders. Total attendees surpassed 14 000 people in 2016.
According to a socio-economic impact survey carried out by BTO, results suggest positive socio-economic gains on the livelihoods of the community of Khawa and surrounding places, before and after the event. BTO has developed and created a land use plan for the village and assisted the village trust to secure a campsite plot for use in generating sustainable income for the community. Dithebe says the proceeds donated to the village trust every year without fail are invested in village projects. Local businesses that have vending stalls and other services en route to Khawa also benefit substantially.
“We don’t just want to come to Khawa for the event and leave when the event is over. Our aim is to develop this tourism product and have a positive impact on the community. Our intention is to have permanent structures like guest houses that will employ locals and accommodate tourists who would like to visit Khawa any time of the year,” he said.
Khawa village chief, Piet Manyoro confirmed that since the inception of the Dune Challenge, they have witnessed significant developments in their village. “My people have received this event well because it came with infrastructural developments, employment opportunities. Our children have been trained to ride motorcycles and are ready to join bigger competitions as well as receiving funds in our trust to further develop our village. That is something,” he said.
He added that they do not have any environmental damage issues because litter is picked after the event and the winds blow the sand dunes back into shape after spectators leave the village. He says in the next coming years he would like to see more developments taking place. “I want all our visitors to sleep here in built up lodges and would like to see the 60 Km gravel road tarred so that even smaller cars can easily access our village,” he said.
For his part the Minister of Kgalagadi, France van der Westerhuizen said they needed a master plan for both Kgalagadi north and south that will explore other tourism products in the area. “We need a long term benefit for the community, we cannot empower people with one event. Let there be sustainable jobs that people can rely on even after the Khawa event is over. This year’s high turnout indicates that the Khawa Dune Challenge and Cultural festival will never fail,” adding that he would like to see the potential of tourism in Kgalagadi because he believes the area is unique and interesting for some tourists.