KASANE: Of all 353 licensed leisure and hospitality facilities in Botswana, not a single hotel has attained 5-star status, while only six lodges have, Steven Ramalepa, the Quality Assurance Manager of the Botswana Tourism Board, astonished the audience at this year's annual retreat of the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana held at the Mowana Safari Lodge in the resort town of Kasane recently.
Ramalepa said despite the importance of grading the facilities, many operators had looked upon it with disapproval, branding it "too prescriptive and unuser-friendly."
The Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS)-supervised system ranges from un-graded to 5-star, encompassing a classification that includes self-catering facilities, guesthouses, lodges and hotels.
Facilities are inspected against each of five categories: tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy.
Among the salient points inspectors tick for or cross against are: appearance, the standard of the furniture, the appearance of staff, and housekeeping; they also look for the quality of the service of food and beverages and inquire closely into the check-in and check-out experience of guests.
In addition, inspectors must satisfy themselves regarding whether the staff are polite at all times and how much they are willing to help solve problems customers may encounter. How skilled are they, anyway? Are they approachable and trustworthy? And - not least - do guests receive the personal attention of staff?
Out of a total of 353 licensed facilities, 295 had been submitted for grading. Of this, 254 have so far been graded. Ninety percent of the graded facilities are guesthouses.
Of the graded facilities, 42 attained 1-star, 30 were awarded 2-star, 27 achieved 3-star, only 7 managed 4-star, while a mere 6 facilities attracted the coveted 5-star status, all lodges. Meanwhile, Dr Susan Keitumetse, a University of Botswana (UB) research fellow based at the Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Centre in Maun, told the gathering that Botswana was not giving enough attention to the development a cultural tourism policy.