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Coronavirus threatens tourism industry

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The local tourism and hospitality industry is already feeling the pinch of the outbreak of the Coronavirus as clients continue to cancel reservations.

Speaking at a media briefing this week, Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) CEO- Lily Rakorong, said the effects of the Coronavirus, or Covid-19, are already being felt in the local tourism and hospitality industry.

“We are at cross roads; these are trying times for us. However, I must say we still remain calm and positive and looking forward to the future,” said Rakorong.

She said although it is still early to quantify the amount on the damage the virus is causing to the local tourism and hospitality industry, early indications are that the effects are creeping in gradually.

“We are experiencing cancellations, but also not yet at the peak of the season and the first quarter of the year is normally a very slow period of the year,” revealed Rakorong, adding that they are not sure what will happen once the peak season arrives.

Although Air Botswana had not yet responded to The Voice enquiries by press time, Rakorong revealed that international movements have declined by 20 percent.

“Arrivals have declined, be it in the hotels, lodges, mobile safaris, guest houses and travel agencies and all these are currently experiencing reduction in business,” she said at a media briefing which was also attended by health ministry officials.

Meanwhile, Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) CEO, Myra Sekgororoane has revealed major tourism events such as the Toyota Desert Race and Khawa Dune Challenge run the risk of being cancelled due to the outbreak of the deadly virus which has claimed the lives of over 4000 people across the world.

In recent days, major events across the world have been cancelled in order to contain the virus and the same could be the case here in Botswana where 16 people have already been tested for the virus.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Marc Patry

    March 19, 2020 at 6:47 pm

    I just cancelled a group of 16 staying for 10 days in various lodges. Get ready for all tourism to close down, and for many months.

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Elephant mortality in Okavango rises to 110, Anthrax ruled out

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Wildlife and National Parks department has ruled out Anthrax as a killer disease for elephants along some villages in the Okavango delta.

As of Friday last week, at least 110 dead elephants were discovered in areas of Seronga, Gunotsoga and Eretsha in the past three weeks and were suspected to have died from Anthrax.

However the Anthrax laboratory tests have come back negative, leaving the government departments searching for more answers. 

“Laboratory results have ruled out Anthrax and we are awaiting more results,” explained regional Wildlife coordinator in Maun, Dimakatso Ntshebe.

Ntshebe said his department through the help of veterinary department services are still conducting further tests to find out whether or not this mysterious disease is not a result of poisoning.

The disease according to Ntshebe causes the giant’s front legs to weaken and therefore the unwell animal walks in uncoordinated manner and ultimately drops to its death.

“We don’t know what could be the cause of this disease but we are working around the clock to find out and hopefully work on the cure,” added Ntshebe.

Some samples are to be sent to South Africa for further testing. “We could have taken other samples to the neighbouring Zimbabwe, but because of COVID-19 that brought everything to almost a standstill, we could not send them,” Ntshebe explained before adding that, “before coronavirus outbreak, Botswana and Zimbabwe were in talks and have entered into some agreements including exportation and importation of certain medications, but we have not yet concluded the matter regarding samples, that is why we have not been able to send samples to Zimbabwe.”

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SADC Executive Secretary disturbed by obstacles in movement of goods

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The Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr Stegomena Lawrence Tax, has cautioned member states that any lack of cooperation among then during the COVID19 era has potential to reverse the gains made in the last decades.

Addressing a virtual SADC Council of Ministers meeting this week, Lawrence Tax said that the regional ministers approved Guidelines on Harmonization and Facilitation of Movement of Essential Goods and Services across borders early April. 

She said that whilst the guidelines have played a critical role in facilitation of movement of essential goods, there are notable obstacles that have been noted by the Secretariat.

The obstacles include non-compliance/non recognition of regional legal frameworks; uncoordinated operations at the port of entry among border agencies; lack of harmonization and synchronization of policies and procedures among, and between member states; unilateral decisions outside agreed framework; as well as different approaches to deal with epidemiological challenges,” she said. 

She added that; “all these are resulting in increased cost of doing business, and negatively affecting the implementation of national and regional programmes”.

She advised that there is need to have measures, and coordinated approach in place since the region is in a post lockdown period since the transportation of non-essential goods and services will be resuming.

Lawrence Tax added that COVID19 is a global pandemic and that the SADC regional approach should expand to COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite and eventually to other continental blocs.

“The Secretariat is already working with COMESA and EAC, specifically, in terms of harmonizing and synchronizing regulations and procedures for movement of goods and services under the Tripartite arrangement. We need to move in unison and avoid unilateral decisions, specifically with regards to cross border movement of goods and services,” she said.

According to the Executive Secretary, the regional office has already conducted a socio-economic impact analysis of COVID19 on the region and the results have shown that the pandemic will impact negatively across many socio and economic sectors.

“The decline in the global economy is projected to lead to a decline in commodity prices, increase in debt and significant contraction of the SADC economies in 2020. This will reverse the gains on industrial development and trade that the region has made in the last couple of years,” Lawrence Tax said.

On the flip side,  the region’s International Cooperating Partners have made pledges to mitigate the impact of COVID19 pandemic on its economy. 

“To date, the Secretariat has secured Euro 7.3 million from the German Government; Euro3.6million from European Union, Euro 190,000.00 under the GIZ/Africa Union Commission, whereas the African Development Bank (AfDB)  has considered a support UA 7 million. Engagements with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) are also at an advanced stage,” the Executive Secretary said.

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