HATAB proposes early vaccination for tourism front liners in anticipation of travel season

In view of the convincing imperative to achieve an early restart of tourism, HATAB proposes that front line tourism staff be designated at Essential Workers and that they be assigned high priority in the allocation of vaccines.

HATAB proposes early vaccination for tourism front liners in anticipation of travel season
Lily Rakorong, HATAB CEO. (Pic:MONIRUL BHUIYAN/PRESS PHOTO)

Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) wants to mobilise resources to procure and distribute vaccines for inoculation of its Members to ameliorate the effects of COVID-19 on the industry.  Tourism industry accounts for about 4.8 per cent to Botswana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and remains a major contributor to job creation and skills transfer, given its strategic position in the country’s diversification and development trajectory.

The proposed measure to procure vaccines for the Industry is premised on the understanding that Government will expedite the resumption of tourism season, which has been affected by COVID-19 restrictions, with huge losses in room occupancy and turnover exceeding 90 per cent and related supply chain under extreme financial distress.

In view of the convincing imperative to achieve an early restart of tourism, HATAB proposes that front line tourism staff be designated at Essential Workers and that they be assigned high priority in the allocation of vaccines. Failure to achieve this in this time frame will result in tourists visiting other countries and defer recovery of Botswana's tourism industry until the busy season of 2022, the association says. “The industry commits to fund the costs of vaccinating its own staff and also to mobilising all of its resources to the procurement, storage, distribution and administration of the vaccines,” the association notes adding that subject to costs, it is believed that many businesses will also be willing to fund the costs of vaccines for some family members of staff, to reduce risks of cross-infection and improve the welfare of the families concerned.

Botswana has already lost a whole busy season for tourism, and the next one commences in May or June. If the industry can go to the market and credibly advise that, by then, all tourism staff will have been vaccinated, HATAB says it will be possible to achieve a restart of the industry.

Market intelligence is clear that the year-long cessation of international travel has resulted in massive pent-up demand for travel in source markets such as North America and Europe. The escalating roll-out of vaccinations in these markets is creating a situation where people from these countries are now seeking to travel. The competition from countries to host these prospective tourists is global and will be intensely competitive: the countries that succeed in this competitive environment will be those that present tourists with the lowest risk of contracting the virus. “The best way to achieve this, and also to protect our own people from risk of contracting the virus, is to ensure that the people with whom the tourists will interact on their visit, being airline, airport and tourism staff, have also been vaccinated,” HATAB says.