Overwhelmed by reports of malpractices, dishonesty and poor service delivery, the Department of Tourism has temporarily suspended the issuing of new licences for travel agency and agro-tourism operations.
In a recent public notice, the department announced that the Tourism Industry Licensing Committee (TILC) will not receive any applications for these operations until further notice.
Tourism department director, Kelebaone Maselesele told BusinessWeek the decision to suspend the issuance of travel agency licences was made after the committee received reports of unethical conduct from licensed operators, especially on air ticketing.
Maselesele said this resulted in some tourists getting stranded, as they could not reach their intended destinations because bookings would not have been made by the responsible travel agents. She said in some instances, tourists paid for packages such as safaris activities with some travel agents who then decided not to book as per client’s requirements and cut communication with client after receiving the money.
“Such unethical practice was tantamount to tarnishing the image of the industry and that of the country,” she stated.
On agro-tourism, the director noted that challenges were experienced in the commencement of implementation of the agro-tourism guidelines especially issues relating to the total area allowed for the agro-tourism activities.
“Therefore it was decided that the agro-tourism activities be suspended pending further consultations with all land boards,” explained Maselesele.
Among other things, she added, consultations would be on areas to be allocated for agro-tourism activities and the necessary standards for these operations.
In relation to travel agencies, she said the licence category was to be amended by separating booking activities of air or sea travel from those of land travel.
She added that licensed operators for air ticketing would be expected to be accredited or affiliated to any of the international air ticketing agencies of repute.
There are 148 licensed travel agency operations in Botswana and only one licensed agro-tourism operation. Maselesele emphasised that the suspension did not affect licensed operators, but affects new applicants.