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Hatab objects to proposed tourism levy

BONIFACE KEAKABETSE
Unamused: Matsheka
MAUN: The envisaged tourism development levy, which is expected to be introduced soon, has drawn criticism from the tourism industry even before its introduction.

Dr Thapelo Matsheka, chairman of the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) criticised the proposed levy.

In a welcome speech at the HATAB conference held here, Matsheka complained that the association was not consulted on the proposed levy and the new exhibition fees.

“There is an emergence of new issues which are result of lack of consultation with HATAB and other stakeholders,” he said.

Matsheka’s harsh words apparently drove a point home as a presentation on the levy was pulled off.

 The conference agenda had indicated that Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) official, Sally-Anne Follet Smith was to present on the tourism development levy but the presentation was pulled off the agenda with the explanation that it will be made next time. Smith told BusinessWeek that they were still going to do further consultation with the industry before making it public.

“As soon as everything is final, we will make a press release for the tourism development levy,” she said.

Another concern Matsheka raised was that of BTO hiking of exhibition fees by 233 percent, which HATAB allege was done without consultation. In April last year, BTO hiked exhibition costs for small and medium operators

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with annual turnover of upto P2 million from P3,000 to P10,000. Fees of bigger operators with annual turnover above P2 million were increased from P9,000 to P 30,000. These have been widely criticised by the tourism industry. HATAB chief executive officer told BusinessWeek in a side interview that they are engaging with government, as they want the fees to be reduced. She said many operators are not coping to pay the fees.

Matsheka in his welcome remarks had complained that the spirit of dialogue seems to be declining, citing the stoppage of the Pitso which used to be held in Gaborone as an example.

“Without dialogue, there is bound to be a gap and that is not conducive to our business expansion, employment and wealth creation,” Matsheka said.

He added that it was through dialogue and HATAB lobbying that the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and BTO were established. Matsheka said HATAB had influenced changes in different legislative instruments for the development of the tourism sector.

Matsheka however praised the role of High Level Consultative Council and the Office of the President in the resolution of issues in HATAB catalogue.



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