- HATAB is seeking permission on behalf of its members
- Recovery of tourism depends on successful vaccination campaign
The Botswana tourism sector is eager to purchase its own COVID-19 vaccines and has submitted a proposal to the government to that end because recovery of the sector is linked to a successful vaccination campaign.
In an exclusive interview with The Botswana Gazette, the CEO of the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB), Lily Rakorong, said engagements with government have commenced after expression of willingness by members to contribute for procurement of vaccines.
“We have submitted a proposal to government and I must tell you that mobilization has started on those willing to contribute towards vaccines. In fact, most of our members have shown interest,” said Rakorong.
She added that the thinking is that purchasing their own vaccines may help accelerate revival of the ailing sector that has lost millions of pula since the onset of the virus last year. “In terms of which vaccine we are keen on, we are looking for the safest and we will be guided by experts because there are a lot of question marks around certain vaccines,” she said.
“The tourism sector has been hard hit. There is need to put together a recovery plan so that we can get back on our feet. We are not looking for an instant impact because we are looking at the year 2023 to have achieved full recovery in the sector.”
Rakorong noted that things have been particularly difficult for a sector that is heavily reliant on mobility. “It is also critical for the government to prioritise the sector in vaccination because we consider ourselves frontline workers,” she said. “You will also take into consideration that when people travel from their own countries coming into Botswana, we are the first to host them. You can understand why we consider ourselves an essential service,” she pointed out, adding that Singapore, Mauritius and Rwanda are among countries where people in the tourism sector are regarded as frontline workers and prioritised for vaccination.
The sector has been hit so hard that occupancies are currently sitting at 3 percent in Botswana. “We haven’t even started recovery,” Rakorong said. “We are far from it because vaccination has not started and borders are still closed in many countries. It is a challenge currently but we are hopeful that as time goes on, things will get back to normalcy. Vaccines are what many people are pinning their hopes on. If we could inoculate a good number of people, Botswana could be declared a safe place to travel to.”
Botswana recently received a consignment of 30 000 doses of Covishield COVID-19 vaccine from India. The drug came at a time when the country is expecting the arrival of the COVAX Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, as announced by the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Edwin Dikoloti.