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Govt freezes mobile tourism licenses for Okavango Delta

BONIFACE KEAKABETSE
Okavango and Chobe are congested with mobile tour operators
MAUN: The minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama has confirmed that new applicants for the mobile Safaris will not operate in Chobe and the Okavango Delta as these prime areas are already congested.

The minister revealed the sad news at a media briefing in Maun recently. Khama said all the new mobile Safari licenses had to take their tourists’ clients only to Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Tuli block.

He, however, said his ministry was working on finding a way to ease congestion in the Okavango Delta before opening the prime tourism to more mobile safari entrants.

The Botswana Guides Association (BOGA), which represents many of the mobile safaris, is however up in arms against the move. BOGA chairman, Kenson Kgaga said the move was ill advised as it targets the mobile safari sector that is citizen-controlled.  “The mobile sector is the most affordable for Batswana entering the tourism sector saying they cannot tour (to) Chobe and Okavango is tantamount to running them out of business.  Few tourists are interested in CKGR,” he said. Kgaga also said tourists booking with the mobile safaris chose which places they wanted to visit, but this was problematic as government had ordered them not travel to areas.

“Our new members are faced with situations where their clients book them to take them into the Delta or the Chobe, but government on the other hand say they cannot tour there: this is bad for businesses

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especially start-ups,” he said. 

Another tour operator, Joo Bayei of Letsatsi Safaris said touring the CKGR was very expensive for the Maun-based operators, saying this would be more difficult for new entry businesses trying to find their feet. “When you tour the CKGR you are forced to airlift your clients from Maun to Ghanzi, which is too expensive as you charter a flight,” he said.

Meanwhile, Khama revealed that his ministry would cut another route, to relieve the overcrowded Savuti route in the Okavango Delta.  He also said they would develop more infrastructures within the KGR to respond to concerns over lack of facilities in the reserve.

Khama added that there was a need to develop and expand the Botswana tourism product as it was currently much more centred in Chobe and the Okavango Delta, adding that this would only be possible if mobile safaris spread their wings to other areas. 

Khama also said his ministry could bail-out the fishermen whose businesses were recently affected by the fishing ban at Lake Ngami.  “We are aware that fishing businesses have been affected, but they should come to us and we will help them financially like we did with the community trusts after the hunting ban,” he said.



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