Maun — All tourism camps operating illegally in the Okavango Delta will be shut down, says Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism ,Mr Kitso Mokaila.
He said government wants a community that respected the law, hence the decision to close businesses operating illegally.
"What makes us attractive is respect for the rule of law and we cannot allow people to allocate themselves land and operate illegally. They need to respect the law in place," he stressed.
The minister also informed councillors that efforts were being made to promote citizen empowerment in the tourism industry.
He said there were 64 concessions, 59 of which were operational while five were vacant. He said government's intention was to allocate the vacant ones to citizens or community trusts because they wanted citizens to be at the top end of the tourism sector.
Priority, he said, would be given to people residing within Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) to promote protection of natural resources.
Mr Mokaila said they would engage land boards as custodians of land to follow the right procedure.
He noted that citizens were financially challenged to start business and advised them to use concessions as collateral to request for funding from financial institutions.
In addition, he said they advise them to go into joint ventures, assisted by Botswana Tourism Board (BTO). He said they had realised that BTO had not been doing its core mandate, which was to facilitate the growth of the industry for Batswana and the country's economy.
He said it was important to have BTO as a referee to balance the equation, hence their involvement to assist the community when they got into joint ventures because the aim was to ensure they benefited more from the industry as custodians of the natural resources.
Mr Mokaila noted that the tourism business was not easy as it needed expertise, and that BTO had to protect the interests of Batswana.
He also stated that locals could work as consortia and be issued with a lease for a longer period, revealing that in the past citizens were given five year leases and that some were unable to develop and generate income because of the short period.
He also noted that from the 59 which were operational, the tenants could give the community at least 25 per cent of shares and that government could consider increasing their lease period.
The minister informed councillors that every operating concession has a tenure, and that more opportunities would open to continue allocating them to citizens.
Mr Mokaila also said by the end of March this year, 1 982 people had been licensed and were operating. He noted that 207 of them were citizens and 69 non-citizens.
Councillors also learnt that the ministry was in the process of addressing the issue of issuance of C licences, saying the priority was to reduce congestion and protect the environment. C licences are issued to those operating off site facilities such as mobile safaris.
They were informed that the issue would be completed before the end of the year, as the aim was to come up with guidelines on where the activities could be undertaken.
The minister also said they were in the process of perfecting the Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme.
Source : BOPA