Kasane — As the deadly coronavirus continues to cause panic across the globe, Botswana has not been spared.
A number of hotels and travel agencies interviewed have expressed concern at the high number of European tourist cancellations.
Chobe Marina Lodge general manager, Mr Mukuwa Parakarungu said the hotel was continuously receiving cancellations.
"We have started getting cancellations in our bookings this month because tourists do not know how the situation is here," he added.
Mr Parakarungu said Chobe Marina Lodge worked with a number of companies in the USA who have started putting their bookings on hold with some proposing to postpone the bookings until year end.
He said the situation was bad because the peak season for tourism in Kasane was March.
Mr Parakarungu explained that their major market for international tourists was America whilst the Chinese market was small.
"We only receive one or two Chinese or Japanese who come on day trips from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe," he added.
Nkanga Lodge general manager, Ms Rebaone George also noted that a group of 25 tourists from the UK had cancelled their April booking due to the outbreak.
She said the group has promised to re-book if the situation improved.
Ms George said most of their clients were locals market, but that it was a big boost to have international tourists.
The travel agency industry has also not been spared. Marketing manager for Nkwe Booking Travel Agency in Kasane, Mr Kabelo Molapo said the virus has had a huge impact on travel agencies.
He said three tourists have cancelled their bookings of travelling from Livingstone in Zambia to Kasane presumably due to the outbreak of the virus.
He said the outbreak was also threatening the peak season, which begins in March when the agencies have a lot of international tourists who were charged more than locals.
Mr Molapo explained that travel plans by international tourists have been affected by the outbreak, adding that they expected more cancellations due to the outbreak.
Owner of Mweenda Travel Agency, which specialises in offering camping equipment, Mr Onalethuso Ntema, also shared the same sentiments. He said the outbreak was a major blow to local travel agencies that operated at the low end of the tourism industry.
He explained that his agency has also suffered cancellation of bookings from Europe. Mr Ntema said Italy, which has been hard-hit, was his major market for tourists.
He said his agency was partly funded through the Youth Development Fund (YDF), and that if no people booked his camping equipment, he would be unable to service his loan and other necessities.
"For us to make profit, we rely on tourists' mobility in terms of the length of their stay and type of equipment preferred," added Mr Ntema.
He said what was disheartening was that last year they did not make any money due to the general elections.
He said the country was not ready to tackle the scourge, adding that the two isolation rooms at Kasane Primary Hospital were not ideal due to congestion.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>