Pieter van Wyk- Student travel reporter
Cape Town- Botswana has recently singed to become the partner country of ITB Berlin 2017, the biggest travel show in the world. Signed by Botswana Tourism Minister H E Tshekedi Khama II and Dr Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin. Along with the relaxing of Visa laws by South Africa should see the country gain more tourists for 2016 and especially 2017 onwards.
Botswana’s tourist gateway comes through South Africa because the country is land locked. Tourists will travel through to Botswana via O.R. Tambo airport and also spend time in the country. However, with Botswana as a partner country of the ITB travel show, their assets will be showed off. Long term international interest will be gained as they are put in the spotlight. Surrounding countries will also benefit such as Zimbabwe which was called the best “adventure destination” for 2016. Not to mention Namibia and Zambia and South Africa of course.
As one of the most financially stable countries in Africa, Botswana has made huge leaps and Bounds to come from one of the poorest nations after independence 1966 and with a current GDP of US$38.819 but US$18.02 per capita vs South Africa which has US$13.32 per capita of which both are estimates for 2016. This has been a factor which has given Botswana credibility across the world and thus is now the first African country ever to be a partner country in the ITB Berlin. David Ruetz, has been quoted saying that “Botswana is Africa’s best kept secret with the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Basin with its many animal species, large forests, and innumerable streams that empty into small lakes.”
Along with this South Africa is planning on relaxing Visa regulations in order to try boost tourism. Tourism saw a low in South Africa in 2015 with a drop in arrivals by 6.8%. This is set to help the suffering economy. Tourism has gone down as South Africa’s extremely strict Visa requirements means that tourist who would otherwise be happy to visit the country will choose to go elsewhere. The new regulations will make South Africa a competitor for tourists from Russia, India and China and could possibly include visa exemption overall.
Therefore, the combination of relaxed visa regulations and Botswana, and consequently its surrounding countries, being in the spotlight for the world to see and explore, will only mean well for the Southern African economy through tourist numbers in arrivals.