Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) may have to cancel events that fall directly under its ambit in response to growing concerns around the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), The Botswana Gazette has established.
The chief executive of BTO, Myra Sekgororoane, told a media briefing in Gaborone recently that most international tourism events had been cancelled for the foreseeable future as a public health precautionary measure and that BTO may follow suit with the Khawa Dune Challenge, Makgadikgadi Epic and Toyota 1000 Desert Race if the pandemic did not subside.
“Tourism is intertwined with travel,” Sekgororoane said. “We are announcing a cautionary for upcoming BTO events (that) if we have to cancel we will. These are events that bring together a lot of people and there can be cases of hygiene. Even for those who got the tender, they need to be aware that if the need arises we might cancel these events. We continue to be vigilant.”
The CEO of Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB), Lily Rakorong, said these were trying times for the tourism industry but they remained optimistic. She pointed out that the tourism industry had survived past challenges such as the 2009 economic downturn and the Iraq wars, noting that Covid-19 was not the first disaster on the health front, the world having battled SARS and other scourges before.
Rakorong said while it was still too early to estimate the impact of the coronavirus on the travel and tourism, the sector was already experiencing cancellations.
Botswana’s tourism industry is not yet at its peak season as the first quarter of the year is normally slow. The industry is still looking at prevention and management of Covid-19 as it is important to respond to the public health emergency by intensifying efforts to reinforce standards of personal hygiene.
“We can already see the impact on the short-term,” Rakorong said. “Our national airline is at 20 percent less than its usual numbers. We also look at arrivals internally and they have declined, be it in the hotels, lodges, mobile safaris and travel agencies and tour operators. But we are yet to quantify exactly in the short-term where we are and even look at the future and see what the cost of Covid-19 is. We are hopeful that the doors won’t shut on us but we remain on guard for our clients and protecting Botswana.”