Khama points to ICT for drop in tourist numbers

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Botswana’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, said the tourist numbers into the country continue to plummet largely because of poor ICT development in that sector as well as unreliable air service. Khama said this during a meeting with stakeholders in the tourism sector. “Poor Information and Communication Technology has had a negative impact on the tourism sector,” he said.    

The total number of tourist arriving in the country has dropped 1 percent, according to the Tourism Statistic Annual Report 2013. The report indicates that a total of 2 598 158 people travelled to Botswana marking a slight decline in arrivals. Of the total arrivals, 18.3 percent were specifically on holiday in the country. 13.7% were here on business while 33.1% were in transit to other countries.

Another international industry observer, Euromonitor International, said Botswana’s travel and tourism suffers from lack of investment in infrastructure which included internet connectivity. “Travel and tourism has been held back by a failure to invest in basic infrastructure projects, particularly the road network, which has left much of the country inaccessible to tourists, but also in new hotels and sites of tourist interest, such as safari parks and shopping facilities. There are signs that the government is now willing to invest more money with a view to developing the industry, and it is actively encouraging foreign private investment in the country,” added the report.

A few months ago, the Botswana Telecommunications Corporations Limited (BTCL) slashed internet prices for retail consumers by up to 46 percent due to reduce costs of international bandwidth and modems.

According to a statement from BTC then, the prices of dedicated internet to its business customers were reduced by up to 46 percent “depending on capacity and contract duration. Retail ADSL Broadband connection service - direct sales to businesses and residential customers -was reduced by up to 27 percent.”

BTCL also slashed its wholesale internet bandwidth prices by 59 percent due to the commissioning of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) undersea cable. The cable links South Africa with the United Kingdom (UK) along the west coast of Africa, covering a distance of 14,000km.

WACS became the latest submarine cable system to hit local shores since the East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy). EASSy went live early a few years ago, immediately lowering internet and mobile costs and allowing a five-year plan for further reductions. With a data rate of 5.12 terabits per second, WACS will be superior to EASSy, which at 3.8 terabits per second is already among the fastest in the world.

“Technology plays an important role in the hospitality and tourism industry. Both customers and businesses can benefit from advances in communication, reservations and guest services systems. Technology allows continuous communication and streamlines the guest experience, from reservation to checkout,” said a local ICT expert Francis Chingono.

On the other hand, he said, the Internet has a powerful impact on hospitality and tourism. “For many businesses and locations, the experience starts long before a traveler arrives--it begins with the first visit to the website, when a person sees photos of the location and gets a sense of what to expect. In the hospitality and tourism business, effective use of Internet technologies can improve revenue. Websites, blogs, online advertising, social media, online ordering and information repositories all help convince customers to choose a location or business.”


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