MAUN: Tourism players are crying foul about the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) decision to increase Tourism fairs and exhibition participation fees by over 200 percent.
A statement from BTO released early this year notified the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB), Botswana Guides Association (BOGA) and other tourism associations about the increment.
As per the new rates the cost of exhibiting for small and medium operators with annual turnover of less than P2 Million will now be P10,000 from P3,000 for the exhibition space. Bigger operators with annual turnover above P2 million will be charged P30,000 from P9,000 for exhibition space representing a 233 percent hike. BTO says with effect from April 1, 2015 all fairs that BTO participates in will be charged with these newly introduced rates. BTO spokesperson Keitumetse Setlang told The Monitor Business that the prices have been increased in order to make it more sustainable to continue to facilitate for the Industry to participate at travel fairs and road shows.
HATAB Chief Executive Officer, Lily Rakorong confirmed to The Monitor that HATAB members received a notice from Botswana Tourism Organisation on the 12th of January 2015, informing them on the increase of tourism fairs participation fees.
She however said that BTO gave them a short notice as most of their members’ financial year runs from January to December, and this means the 2015 budget has already been prepared without factoring in the increase.
She further explained that there was never consultation between BTO and HATAB regarding this, prior to this notice. Rakorong said the increment has huge negative financial impact on company operations. We are looking at 233 percent increment in some instances. This will not be easy for HATAB member companies to absorb into their 2015 budget, as it is way beyond the inflation rate. She revealed that HATAB has met with BTO on the matter and did not reach a common goal. “We wrote to BTO and requested the office to defer the revised fees.”
BOGA chairman Kenson Kgaga was equally disturbed about the changes. Kgaga said BOGA members are mostly small Batswana operators who run mobile safaris. “BOGA members are small companies and will not afford these new rates on such short notice. We suspect this is just a strategy to kick us out of the industry,” said the outspoken Kgaga whose association is instrumental in advocating for citizen empowerment in the tourism industry. Kgaga also accused BTO of serving the interests of influential individuals with interest in the tourism sector. Setlang said BTO is aware that there has been some discomfort in the new prices. She said in a statement to The Monitor: “We wish to reiterate though that the price increase is necessitated by the need to ensure that we continue being able to provide the platform required for local companies to attend travel fairs and road shows, where they would be able to establish business links.”