Kitso Mokaila

Staff Writer

The number of tourists visiting Botswana has passed the two million a year mark, the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila has said.

The minister told a Kgotla meeting in Kanye yesterday that last year, an estimated 2.1 million tourists visited the country. He said that the average estimated annual growth rate of arrivals between 2006 and 2010 stand at 10.7 percent. The average length of stay of international tourists is 5.3 days. Domestic tourist arrivals, or overnight tourist trips, were for the first time calculated in 2010 and they stood at about 1.2 million visitors with expenditure for both day and overnight trips standing at P955 million, the minister said at the commemoration of the World Tourism Day in Kanye.

During the same period, international tourist expenditure was P4.7 billion with an average expenditure of P429 per person per night. “Tourism contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) in the same year stood at 3.7 percent with accommodation room and bed occupancy rates at 48.1 percent and 40.7 percent respectively,” he said.

Mokaila said that at present, Botswana’s tourism is dependent on the abundant wildlife resources and wilderness, which are concentrated in the northern part of the country. He said that his ministry is working on efforts to diversify the tourism product, given the country’s rich cultural, archaeological and historical attractions. “Some of the internationally renowned local attractions include Tsodilo Hills, Qwihaba caves, Lekhubu Island and many more,” he said.

The minister asserted that the government has put in place policies, strategies and legislation to safeguard cultural resources and to regulate the operations of the tourism sector. “Some of the instruments worth mentioning are the Tourism Policy of 1990, Tourism Act of 2009, the 2002 National Ecotourism Strategy, Monument and Relics Act signed in 2001 and the National Policy on Museum Development of 2004. The implementation of these instruments complements the Tourism Master Plan,” he said, adding that the master plan in turn provides a guide towards the achievement of a sustainable tourism. Mokaila said that this year’s day is commemorated under the theme “Tourism – Linking Cultures”. He said that the theme positions the tourism sector in a better position to play a great role in linking together the cultures of the world through travel. “These linkages form a path that brings cultures of the world together and promote national, regional and global understanding through travel. As people traverse the world, they get exposed to different cultures,” he said.

“This interaction between individuals and communities of different backgrounds and ways of life, characterises the rich diversity of cultures. Therefore, cultural diversity has a potential to advance the world towards the attainment of the values of tolerance, respect, mutual understanding and peace,” he continued.

Prior to the commemoration, the ministry held a cultural night, still in Kanye, where people from different cultures showcased different aspects of their cultures. In the display were varying cultural foods, dress, songs, dance and many hand-crafted products.