Gaborone — President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi says notwithstanding the ongoing projects, the COVID -19 pandemic has reversed the gains previously made in the tourism sector.
Speaking in Parliament during the State of the Nation Address on November 9, Dr Masisi said by the end of April, it was estimated that 90.7 per cent of all tourism enterprises had closed down with only 9.3 per cent opened primarily for quarantine purposes.
In response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, Dr Masisi said government had made a decision to extend the wage subsidy support to all licensed tourism enterprises for a period of six months from July to December, to pay wage subsidies to all freelance personnel in the tourism sector that were not covered in the initial wage subsidy of April to June.
Furthermore, Dr Masisi said government had revised the Tourism Policy and it would be presented during the current sitting of Parliament.
“The overall objective of the policy is to facilitate product diversification, promote domestic tourism, increase citizen and local participation in the development of the sector,” he said.
In order to increase meaningful citizen participation in the growth and development of the tourism industry, Dr Masisi said government had taken a decision to reserve five concessions in the Okavango Delta to be allocated to 100 per cent citizen-owned companies, consortia and joint venture partnerships.
He added that government had also launched the Tourism Information Licensing System in January for the licensing and revenue collection from operators.
The system, he said, offers a platform to apply for tourism licenses, pay license fees, penalties and the training levy fee online and by so doing it improves the ease of doing business.
In recognition of local heritage sites, Dr Masisi said government had restored the 80-year-old Matlapana Bridge in Maun.
“The community has taken over the management of the bridge for tourism activities, said Dr Masisi.
He added that the Kgalagadi heritage trial was launched to highlight and celebrate over 30 key cultural and natural heritage sites for tourism.
In that regard, he said communities had been engaged to strengthen mini- trails at BORAVAST, Gakhibane, TSAMAMA and 4-Hooks.
He said the ongoing management plan for the Qcwihaaba caves and wider NG-4 sought to explore further developments in the area with the caves as the main tourism attraction.
“These and Tsodilo will be leased to Batswana and will commence operation by June 2021,” he added.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>