Bots to brace for tourist influx after Okavango Delta listing


Gaborone –The recent listing of Botswana’s Okavango Delta as a world heritage site requires tourism players in the country to raise their standards in anticipation of an influx of visitors, Tourism Minister Tshekedi Khama said this past week.

He said the Okavango Delta’s recent listing as a World Heritage site is not enough to attract tourists into the country adding that research has shown that Botswana’s hospitality industry is still unsatisfactory.

“Organisations such as Air Botswana must up their game and improve their services in anticipation of tourists who will be coming here to see the newly-listed delta,” Minister Khama told journalists during a ceremony in Gaborone to announce the bestowment of the world heritage site accolade.

He said that hotels and restaurants in the city provide poor service compared to those in the outskirts, something which is a great concern in the hospitality industry. He noted that hotels and restaurants in the city have to up their game in order to attract tourists into the country, as this will help Botswana to remain in the listing.

He added: “I also challenge the hotel and hospitality industry to live up to the standards that have been set by the listing of the delta.”

Minister Khama said Botswana will not allow any mining in the Okavango Delta. He explained that carrying out mining at the Delta would lead to possible de-listing from the World Heritage Sites.

He said the listing will enable Botswana to receive funding from the World Heritage Fund for the development of management plans, monitoring and evaluation activities.

The Okavango Delta in northwest Botswana made history last month after it was named as the 1 000th entry on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list.

The World Heritage Committee met in Doha, Qatar from June 16-25 and approved the new natural and cultural treasures.

Meanwhile, a conservationist with Wilderness Safaris Tourism Company says the Okavango Delta does not face any immediate threats. Map Ives, who is an environmental manager at Wilderness Safaris, told Gabz FM news this morning that the Okavango Delta, listed as a UNESCO World heritage site last month, has over the years enjoyed protection as a Ramsar site.

Ives said this status, coupled with other national management apparatus, as well as the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission ensured the protection of the site, adding that its new listing will ensure long-term protection by the international community.

Ives noted that the only notable threat to the Delta was the proposed hydroelectric power project by Namibia at Popa Falls, which was since shelved.

He however noted that swelling populations within the Okavango Delta may in the long term suffocate the site due to competing land use needs. Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Wilderness Safaris added that the status of the Delta will help the tourism industry in marketing their products. He said most tourists now want to be sure that the areas they visit are protected and not under any threat.

He noted that as a World Heritage Site, more and more people around the world will want to visit the Okavango Delta.

July 2014
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