I am truly honoured to stand before you today as the Acting Minister of Environment and Tourism of Botswana during this prestigious event. The Botswana Travel & Tourism Expo (BTTE) is a remarkable platform that showcases the incredible beauty and diversity of our country, as well as the opportunities it offers to both travellers, the tourism industry and investors.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the BTTE is an annual event which started in 2013 as a travel and tourism trade show, seeking to provide international agents with hands-on experience of Botswana tourism product and its terrain.
It brings together top-rated international buyers and local operators to discuss, network, share experiences and possibly seal business deals. It creates business and capacity-building opportunities, providing buyers with insight information on a range of diverse tourism products through the business-to-business (B2B) sessions and interactive workshops conducted by the widely known local travel and tourism experts.
Our main objective in using this platform is to promote other forms of tourism such as, Culture, Heritage, Sports, Religion, Meetings Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE), Game Farming, Research, Astro-tourism and Agro-tourism among others to diversify the tourism product.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Government is dedicated to advancing the second transformation of our country’s economy from its current upper-middle-income status to a high-income status. My Ministry’s key responsibility under the Transformation Agenda is to drive citizen economic empowerment in the tourism sector; create employment through the development of tourism value chains; make Botswana a MICE Hub; promote heritage and cultural tourism; product diversification; automation of services and infrastructure development.
In 2019, the Presidential Directive on Tourism Development underscored the importance of citizen economic empowerment in tourism, and it among others, directed that land be identified and reserved for citizen-owned companies, communities and joint ventures.
In order to further build momentum to propel the nation toward its aspiration of achieving high-income status, Government in 2021 established five pivotal priorities through the RESET Agenda. These priorities encompassed safeguarding Botswana’s population against the ongoing threat of COVID-19, aligning the Government machinery with the presidential agenda, driving forward digitization initiatives, fostering value chain development, and instigating a transformative shift in mindset within the population.
In the same year, Parliament demonstrated its commitment to the RESET Agenda by adopting the National Tourism Policy (2021) and in 2023, the Ministry produced a Draft National Tourism Strategy and Master Plan. The Master Plan operationalizes the Policy and adopts a Four (4) pronged strategy to implement the key Policy objectives.
The BTTE represents Government’s commitment to achieving the above imperatives. Our tourism sector is a vital part of our economy, contributing significantly to our GDP and creating jobs for our people. It is an industry that relies on the sustainable and responsible management of our natural resources and we are deeply committed to preserving our rich natural heritage and ensuring that tourism in Botswana remains both environmentally and socially responsible.
Ladies & Gentlemen, last year (2022) saw the steady re-emergence of the sector after the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 and it has been wonderful to see the growth through statistics and feeling the world of travel come to life and bounce back in 2023. The growth and performance of this sector is thanks to all of you here today and the many other women and men out there right now at our airports, hotels, guest houses, tour companies, tourist attractions, restaurants, and at all the many other special offerings our beautiful country has on offer.
By welcoming visitors from different corners of the globe, we create opportunities for learning, collaboration, appreciation, and mutual respect. Tourism promotes cultural diversity and facilitates the exchange of ideas, ultimately contributing to global peace and prosperity.
The participation of the public sector at this BTTE is a living example of the interventions we often talk about, when we say we need bridges between government and the private sector. Boosting the level of engagement between us to drive a more ambitious vision for the economy is exactly what we need to enable job creation and fostering the ease of doing business by building better synergies. We must do more to aggressively market and promote our destination with one clear message and voice.
We are determined to share the magic of Botswana with the world. Our marketing efforts will highlight the unique experiences and natural wonders our country has to offer while also emphasizing our commitment to conservation and responsible tourism.
I encourage all the stakeholders, both domestic and international, to work with us in achieving these goals. We are open to collaboration, innovation, and new ideas that can help us protect and promote Botswana as a leading sustainable tourism destination.
Botswana is a land of incredible natural beauty, diversity, and rich cultural heritage. Our country boasts some of the most pristine and awe-inspiring landscapes in Africa, from the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the expansive Kalahari Desert.
Our wildlife is second to none, offering some of the best opportunities for wildlife conservation and responsible tourism. From the majestic elephants of Chobe National Park to the rare and elusive black rhinoceros, Botswana is a sanctuary for some of the world’s most magnificent creatures.
We are dedicated to eco-friendly practices and sustainable development, focusing on wildlife conservation, community engagement, and responsible tourism practices.
Botswana, like many other nations, is experiencing the impacts of climate change. The changing weather patterns, extreme events, and shifts in the environment are not mere abstractions; they are stark realities that we must address with urgency and determination. A re chencheng Bagaetsho!!
My Ministry is committed to taking the lead in making Botswana a beacon of responsible and sustainable tourism. We are working to reduce the carbon footprint of our tourism industry by promoting eco-friendly practices and supporting renewable energy initiatives. We are also committed to conserving our natural resources, protecting our wildlife, and ensuring that our communities benefit from tourism in a fair and equitable manner.
But we cannot do it alone. We need the support and collaboration of every sector of society. We call upon the private sector, civil society, academia, and individuals to join us in this critical endeavor. We must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, adopt sustainable practices, and support clean and renewable energy sources.
I want to express my gratitude to all our partners, both within and beyond our borders, for their unwavering support in making Botswana a top travel destination. I extend a warm welcome to all those who have travelled from afar to experience our beautiful country. Together, let us create a brighter and more sustainable future for Botswana’s tourism industry.
I encourage all participants in this Expo to engage in meaningful discussions, network, and share your knowledge and ideas on how we can collectively make tourism in Botswana more sustainable and resilient.
Thank you, and I wish you all a successful and inspiring Expo.
Enjoy your time in Botswana!