The Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO)'s heritage tourism activities are bearing fruit with several community-driven projects on the verge of taking off around the country.
The projects, funded under the BTO's P15 million annual development budget, are designed to diversify tourism away from traditional activities such as wildlife while simultaneously spreading tourism activities around the country.
The heritage activities are in line with a World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) research recommendation that there should be development of a more diversified portfolio of tourism products to lessen reliance on single products.
Briefing journalists on Friday, BTO Chief Executive Officer, Myra Sekgororoane said the projects consisted of projects directly funded by the parastatal and others for which it sources joint venture partners for Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and trusts holding leases for the projects. "Investment promotion into tourism is critical to the Tourism Strategy and in the short to medium term, our area of concentration is to geographically diversify our tourism products into areas such as culture, sports and heritage," she said. "It's unsustainable to rely on one product especially when the product is one that we did not create such as safaris. These other tourism products can be created even where they do not exist naturally. "Such a strategy will help push tourism to areas that are less developed in terms of tourism and even to cities and towns."
Heritage projects include an eco-tourism pilot in Tsabong involving the use of camels and the desert for tourism purposes. In this project, the BTO has partnered with the Tsamama Trust and government. Project development includes accommodation facilities and port cabins.
"The project is a pilot because once it takes off there, we want to take some of these camels to other communities in the Kalahari and replicate the project. We have engaged experts from the Kenya Camel Association as they have well-developed activities around camels in their country. "The experts will be helping with husbandry and veterinary work. When fully operational, some of the key activities will include camel safaris where you can go from
Tourists are already flocking to the Tsabong project.
Another is the Seboba project in Kasane which involves the construction of a cultural village and recreational facility on a prime piece of riverfront land between Mowana Safari Lodge and the Prison farms. Done in conjunction with the Seboba Community Trust, designs for the project have been completed and a construction company is on site for infrastructural development.
The BTO is also working with the Moremi Manonnye Community Trust which has been granted permission to use the Moremi Gorge, which is a national monument, in the Tswapong Hills for non-consumptive tourism activities.
"The project will entail construction of a bridge across the Lotsane River, construction of accommodation facilities and development of walkways. "Designs for the structures have been completed and the contractor is on site and has commenced the construction phase," the BTO CEO said. Joint venture projects that the BTO has facilitated include the development and marketing of two lodges and campsites at the Nata Sanctuary, development of five-star Ngoma Lodge in the Chobe region, development of a lodge in the Khwai area and tourism activities around the Gcwihaba Caves. The last involves the Xai Xai Community Trust.
In addition, the BTO is actively investigating the development of tourism activities around the country's dams. "We are identifying tourism opportunities around the country's dams for the development of various products. We are also identifying tourism opportunities in sport which is why we sponsored the recent Gaborone City Marathon and will also be involved in the forthcoming Selebi-Phikwe Marathon," said Sekgororoane.
Tourism activities are expected to rebound to growth this year, following their deterioration last year due to the recession. Last year, the country received a total of 1.87 million tourists who collectively spent approximately P2.9 billion.