By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone – In a shocking move, Botswana has reportedly pulled out of the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA) barely eight months after being voted as the organisation’s chair.
Unconfirmed reports that Botswana has withdrawn from RETOSA came to the fore recently during a meeting held by Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana in the northern resort town of Maun.
This week, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Thato Raphaka, confirmed the development but could not share the reasons behind the move.
Raphaka was quoted as saying, “I can confirm that it has come to my attention that Botswana has pulled out of RETOSA, but I am still going to engage with relevant stakeholders to find out if the decision was done by the ministry or by the government. Right now, I am not even aware of the reasons why we pulled out.”
HATAB chairperson, Dr Thapelo Matsheka slammed Botswana for withdrawing from the regional tourism organisation without consultation. Reports indicate that despite its withdrawal, Botswana is the current chairperson of RETOSA.
For his part, Felix Monggae, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism reportedly admitted that withdrawing from RETOSA was sudden. “Withdrawing from RETOSA was not spiteful but we wanted to allow the private sector to take the lead,” he said.
Botswana’s decision to withdraw from RETOSA comes at a time when the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat in Gaborone has said Botswana has agreed to fully support and actively assist RETOSA to establish partnerships and secure resources from international cooperating partners towards a tourism destination marketing strategy.
Additionally, RETOSA secured support for the various mechanisms to be adopted in seeking approval from the SADC ministers for the implementation of Phase II of the Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) Development Strategy to be expanded to include all 18 SADC TFCAs.
RETOSA’s revised repositioning strategy aims to move the SADC region share of tourism from its current 2% of global tourist arrivals and receipts respectively to 5% within the next decade.
The new vision is firmly founded on strong partnerships with the private sector operating in the region – a steep departure and a serious shift in paradigm from past practice, which had seen more preoccupation with governments or public sector. Intra-Regional Tourism is essential to a thriving tourism economy in Region.