Government’s department of Wildlife and National Parks is considering reviewing and grading the country’s protected areas with the view of increasing entrance fees and improving service delivery in the national parks.
The department’s Director, Cyril Taolo explained they further want to decrease congestion in the riverfront along the Okavango Delta and control traffic as a way of protecting Botswana’s environment and natural resources.
“There is need to maintain our parks and manage visitors. We have found that more visitors prefer the riverfront and if we increase fees and differentiate visiting schedules we are hoping we will decrease congestion,” he said.
By December, Taolo intends to have sent recommendations to government for consideration ahead of the next financial year, which begins April 2020.
Currently his team is going around the country holding consultative workshops on what needs to be done in terms of developing management of protected areas and setting park fees.
Taolo noted that the country has not changed its fees in 19 years, with its charges the lowest in the region, not only in its parks but borders as well.
Botswana currently charges P10 entrance fees for citizens and P120 for foreigners in its parks.
Additionally, according to Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BioFin), the country is the most lenient when it comes to free entry of young children.
Whilst other countries charge children from three years of age, Botswana admits eight year olds for free.
BioFin suggests Botswana is not making enough money through its parks to cover the expenditure in related areas, including dealing with problem animals and salaries.
Taolo shares a similar sentiment, stressing that 60percent of the annual budget they receive from government goes to salaries alone.
Thus he strongly believes thatby increasing fees in the parks the country can reap from its natural resources.
“A lot needs to be done to revamp our tourism destinations. Government needs to put automated systems in place to make it easier for our clients to book, as well as make their experience enjoyable and memorable,” he stated, adding that at the same time the review of prices should not hit hard on the pockets of locals as the aim is to encourage them to equally access and enjoy their parks.