It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to Gaborone, on the occasion of the 5th annual Africa Tourism Leadership Forum (ATLF) and Awards convened by the Africa Tourism Partners, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Botswana Ministry of Environment and Tourism. On behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of Botswana, we are delighted to host you in Gaborone.
I am pleased that we can meet physically and that, technology has made it possible for some of you to join this forum virtually, following the restrictions we all endured in various jurisdictions to mitigate the spread and transmission of the COVID-19 virus in the past two years. We all know how such necessary measures negatively impacted the travel and tourism industry. I therefore wish to express my sincere gratitude to all delegates and speakers who are in attendance today.
UNWTO, your being a part of this forum is a great honour to Africa and indeed to my Nation. Your advocacy and role in guiding the world tourism has contributed immensely to getting the industry to where it is today on its journey to recovery.
The presence of many of you participants, bears testimony to the important role that Travel and Tourism play in our countries, as the nucleus that binds us geographically and economically. I am informed that a total of 43 countries from Africa and the rest of the world are part of this event, representing 450 participants who are here physically and hundreds more participating virtually.
This vital forum will undoubtedly provide travel and tourism industry in Africa and indeed the rest of the world, with a platform for exchanging ideas aimed at promoting travel to and around Africa.
Tourism is a dynamic and competitive industry that requires the ability to constantly adapt to customers’ changing needs and desires, as the customer’s satisfaction, safety and enjoyment are the focus of tourism businesses.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, tourism is experiencing rapid change, disrupted by advancing technologies and shifting consumer expectations, something we should work on as a collective.
A new generation of tourists is emerging, and the hospitality and tourism sector is undergoing fundamental shifts in the way it operates, occasioned by changing global economies as well as Government’s policies to operational efficiencies, and the need for seamless technology to delivering a flawless guest experience.
To adapt to constant change, industries are looking to adopt strategies to future- proof their business and to navigate rapidly changing technological landscapes. I therefore urge you to take this time to have an in-depth analysis of the trends and forecasts influencing travel patterns, and how you can take advantage of the opportunities that they bring to us in the tourism sector.
The 5th Africa Tourism Leadership Forum challenges us to rethink tourism and devise strategies to build resilience, considering that the UNWTO’s theme for this year’s Tourism Day is ‘Rethinking Tourism’. This forum will play a key role in our quest to educate and promote the unique natural beauty and history that defines us as a people, countries and a globally distinct continent. Working together, forging partnerships and collaborations is key to building sustainable tourism economies.
I have been reliably informed that the this gathering, ATLF, was hosted by the Republic of Ghana in 2018 to launch and position the event as a Meetings, Incentives and Exhibitions (MICE) initiative, while in 2019 the city of Durban in the Republic of South Africa used ATLF to launch the Youth in Tourism Development support program; and the Republic of Rwanda used it to launch its Rwanda Tourism Week Exhibition initiative.
In line with these, Botswana does not only leverage on this 5th Africa Tourism Leadership Forum & Awards to drive intra-Africa tourism but also to position herself as another compelling MICE destination in Africa. The 2022 event challenges us to work smarter as Africa taking advantage of technology, as well as ensuring maximum returns on investment in the tourism industry. Having gone through the list of speakers I am confident that we will conclude the 2022 event with a robust implementable plan for the betterment of the lives of our people.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, tourism is a major contributor to the national economy and has tremendous potential for growth. The Government of Botswana is committed to growing the sector as part of its economic diversification strategy. The sector is beginning to rebound in 2022 due to more relaxed travel restrictions and a well thought out strategy which saw growth of the domestic market and recovery of the regional and international markets.
In 2021, we announced a new tourism policy that promotes active citizen participation in the tourism sector. Botswana’s tourism adaptation of the Value Chain business is underpinned by the principles of Citizen economic empowerment, job creation, tourism product diversification and investment growth as espoused in the Botswana Tourism Policy of 2021.
A total of six areas have been prioritized for adaptation to the value chain principle and these include: Events Tourism, Cluster Development, Cultural Tourism Development, Community Project-Development, Community Projects and Dams Tourism.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this policy emphasizes product development and diversification as a key driver of growth within the tourism industry, and views the promotion of adventure and cultural tourism as an opportunity to attract more arrivals locally, regionally, and globally to complement our traditional wildlife tourism offering. This move towards increased activity, plays a positive role in our economy and in creating employment in varied geographical locations.
And all these, which I believe are similar to what is being done elsewhere in the world can only be achieved through forums like this one, characterized by collaborations between Governments, our citizens, the private sector, and our friends from around the world who are providing new skills and innovation for the tourism industry in Africa to thrive.
I am confident that from this conference, we will continue to witness the alignment of private and public sector endeavours around the tourism rebound renewing their focus and galvanizing action for development.
We encourage the private sector to lead the way in investing in experiences and in creating package deals that are attractive to tourists with varying preferences, and these include heritage and cultural tourism, so that we can bring more value to Africa’s offerings.
Our Continent is renowned for its beauty and the quality of establishments and high service excellence. Now more than ever before, we must continue to maintain this enviable reputation.
However, to harness this potential we have to work together. The only way to achieve success and unprecedented tourism growth, and job creation, is by coming together, capitalizing on each other’s strengths and working as one. This I believe will get the tourism industry back to its pre pandemic and 2019 performance levels, which we hope should be reached by 2024.
I would like to encourage all stakeholders in the room and indeed the tourism industry, to see this conference as the start of concrete actions that will deliver the catalytic growth that the sector, and indeed Africa’s economy needs.
Tourism has a deep and wide value chain, which offers many Small Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) opportunities, and we should look at opportunities to enhance value chains amongst ourselves as Africans. Africa should also nurture its tourism economy so that it promotes inclusive growth, so that those who were previously disadvantaged are empowered in a meaningful way, which includes unlocking the true potential of SMMEs.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, In conclusion, I wish you all well as you look forward to engaging further as partners, working together towards Africa’s rebound strategies and contribute positively to our countries’ economic growth.
Let me invite you to take time off to visit Botswana beautiful tourist attractions such as Gaborone and its surroundings, Okavango, Chobe, Tuli, Makgadikgadi and the Kgalagadi with its beautiful landscapes.
I trust you will have a chance to taste our organic beef which is compares to none in the world. The holiday season is already upon us, so do buy our crafts to take back home the Memories of Botswana as gifts to your loved ones.
I thank you all.