Early hiccup for Botswana’s tourism levy
By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone – Botswana legislators have rejected amendments meant to usher in a tourism levy, where tourists entering the southern African country will be charged $30.
The citizens of SADC countries are exempt from paying the proposed levy.
The Bill seeks to make provisions for the imposition of a levy on tourism enterprises, tourists or tourist product consumers.
The country’s tourism sector however, strongly criticized the proposal, arguing it is a disincentive given that Botswana is already among the world’s most expensive tourism markets.
In Parliament, the amendments were rejected on a technicality this week after legislators noted that they had not passed a key consultative stage.
“We cannot allow another levy to be introduced before we have been consulted about it.
It will affect people’s lives and we need to be briefed about it accordingly,” said Wynter Mmolotsi, a member of the Parliamentary Tourism Committee.
Another member of the tourism committee, Kagiso Molatlhegi, was equally concerned.
“As a member of the committee, we should have been briefed about the Bill before coming to parliament, but we are in the dark,” Molatlhegi said.
“It is not a bad bill, but procedure should be followed,” opposition chief whip, Dithapelo Keorapetse said.
The amendments were reportedly fast-tracked without much consultation as the current session of parliament ends on Friday.
The target is to have the levy operating before the Christmas holiday traffic. The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama is now expected to bring back the amendments to the next sitting of parliament in November, meaning its implementation might be delayed beyond tourism high season.
Critics of the tourism levy argue that with prime tourism spots costing as much as US$71,000 during high season, the levy is an unnecessary burden.
Khama wants the money raised through the levy to assist in the training of staff of tourism enterprises.
The minister wanted amendments to Section 30 (2) which will empower the minister to impose additional levy, which will be used for the improvement and maintenance of quality standards in the tourism industry.