Domestic tourism comprises activities of a resident visitor within the country, either as part of a domestic tourism trip or part of an outbound tourism trip, including the activities of government and its bureaucracy. While domestic tourism statistics are limited, existing data shows that 1,166,141 overnight domestic trips were recorded in 2010 in Botswana, of which 84.8 percent stayed with friends/family. In the same year, domestic tourists spent a total of P955 million, with 81 percent spent by overnight tourists. A further P36 million was spent by domestic tourists as part of an outbound trip during the same year. In total, domestic tourism spending was estimated at P991 million in 2010.
While real statistics are not available, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) projects domestic travel spending in Botswana to rise to an estimated P6,278.7 billion by the year 2025. Obviously, these estimates were made before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they reveal the potential value of domestic tourism. Economic gains can thus be expected from policies designed to stimulate growth of domestic tourism.
The strategies that will be adopted going forward, will determine how close Botswana’s domestic tourism growth and financial contribution will be to the projected scenario (or even surpass the projections) in the next five years. The ongoing review of the tourism policy (1990) is an opportunity for government to take deliberate steps to develop domestic tourism in the long term, with a view to increasing domestic tourism volume and tourism expenditure. It must also aim to develop a culture of tourism among locals and get them interested in appreciating the local culture (heritage sites) and flora and fauna. The policy must also ensure that barriers to entry by locals in this industry are eliminated. It is true that currently, high value activities in this sector are dominated by foreigners, with most locals only limited to low value activities.
The country’s destination management organisation, the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), in partnership with other tourism stakeholders, should embark on a countywide identification and/or development of regional/ local specific tourism products that have potential to attract domestic tourists across the country with a view to spreading tourism activities across the country. This will facilitate economic recovery across the country. Botswana’s big dams such as Molatedi, Letsibogo, Shashe and Dikgatlhong Dams would enhance localised and across district domestic tourism. Such developments should be accompanied by well-designed water-based tourism activities such as Sport Fishing, Boating, boat cruising and any other water-based activities that could be better promoted to the local market. One-day tours and recreation experience can further be developed around these products.
Marketing and Pricing Strategies
Botswana’s nature-based resources, culture and heritage sites which are already developed should be marketed and made accessible to the local market, particularly nature-based resources, which have for many years been accessible mainly to international tourists. The challenge with these products has always been the pricing, embedded in the ‘low volume high value policy’. With this pricing policy, Batswana do not enjoy the price benefit of being citizens in most tourist areas. The closest incentive that exists is for Batswana to pay the SADC rate in most destinations and lodging facilities. As result, the domestic market has been left out. A deliberate pricing system designed to encourage locals to visit destinations in Botswana should be developed, differentiating domestic and international tourism prices. Furthermore, tourism marketing targeting the domestic market is essential to increase the numbers of local tourists and domestic tourism income. This is where the creativity of the BTO is essential, to produce marketing campaigns that will stimulate domestic tourism, emphasising the uniqueness of each local destination.
The government has recently announced a government loan Guarantee Scheme for businesses affected by COVID-19 . Tourism businesses are expected to benefit from this scheme, as the sector looks to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, like many economic empowerment programmes and initiatives introduced by government in the past (e.g. CEDA, Youth Development Fund etc.), accessibility, especially by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is of primary concern. It is thus critical to ensure that SMEs benefit from the Scheme.