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Mystery as Botswana pulls out of regional tourism body

PAULINE DIKUELO
The Okavango Delta is one of Africa's prime tourism hotspots
Botswana has pulled out of the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA), barely eight months after being elected to chair the organisation.

On Wednesday, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Thato Raphaka confirmed the development, but could not share the reasons behind such a move. “I can confirm that it has come to my attention that Botswana has pulled out of RETOSA, but I am still going to engage with relevant stakeholders to find out if the decision was done by the Ministry or by the government. Right now I am not even aware of the reasons why we pulled out,” he said.

At the Travel Indaba held in Durban earlier this month, South Africa’s tourism authorities appeared unaware that Botswana had dumped RETOSA, with SA Tourism chief executive officer (CEO), Sisa Ntshona saying the organisation was helping market southern Africa as a unit, including the tourism heartland in north-western Botswana.

Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) CEO, Lily Rakorong was elected RETOSA chair late last year, pledging to transform the organisation by facilitating regional tourism development and fostering collaborative marketing. In an

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interview with BusinessWeek shortly after her appointment, Rakorong said there was need to finalise the re-transformed RETOSA strategy saying  she would be working with the RETOSA secretariat and member states to ensure that all actors have a common goal. At the time, she said the main challenge was that RETOSA mandate was not aligned to resources given for proper functioning of the secretariat and implementation of programmes.

Rakorong wanted to push for a focus on destination marketing and aggressive marketing of SADC as a region, saying there was need for urgent visibility and increased presence in the various international fairs.

On Wednesday, however, Rakorong could not discuss the latest developments saying she was in a meeting. She referred questions to HATAB spokesperson, Tebogo Oletile who was unavailable at the time of going to press. RETOSA is responsible for tourism growth, development as well as marketing across southern African member states. It also facilitates and promotes the development of equitable and ethical tourism throughout the region.



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