Gaborone — Botswana Tourism Organization's (BTO) chief executive officer, Ms Myra Sekgororoane says the country's tourism industry started to feel the effects of COVID-19 last month.
Speaking at a press briefing in Gaborone on April 27, Ms Sekgororoane said the COVID-19 impact was felt when international and national airlines started reducing their scheduled routes as well as load factors.
Ms Sekgororoane said all categories of the travel and tourism industry had been affected, adding that the impact varied from gradual to immediate, even though the gradual was within a short period of time.
Ms Sekgororoane said the travel agents were negatively affected when airlines came to a halt and the inability to obtain refunds from airlines for cancelled, but pre-paid flights.
The industry, she said, was also dependent on when and how the international markets would recover and start to travel.
Within the different categories such as hotels, lodges, camps, guesthouses, bed and breakfast facilities, mobile safaris, transfers, mekoro cruise, motor boating, travel agents, tour operators, she said, the SMMEs were the hardest hit.
She explained that most of the mobile safaris were SMMEs, which typically utilise prepayments by booked clients to generate their working capital.
Furthermore, she said within the Mobile Safari category was a substantial number of freelance professional guides, who were left in the lurch with no employer to turn to.
Botswana Guides Association, she said, had a membership of 391, with 3 000 employees including 400 freelance guides.
Ms Sekgororoane said Global Tourism had historically been a resilient industry and had survived other disasters, adding that what should be borne in mind was that recovery could be slow, especially with the current COVID-19 pandemic.
She said people should exercise patience, noting that tourists recovered at different times in terms of finances and also from possible fear of travelling to far away and unknown places.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>