Botswana - Country Commercial Guide
Travel and Tourism

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2020-08-31

Overview

Industry participants both in Botswana and abroad have noted the country’s unique natural resources provide it with a significant advantage in the tourism sector.  Tourism plays a significant role in the national economy and exhibits enormous potential for future growth.  Most business analysts estimate this difficult-to-quantify sector accounts for less than 10% of GDP.  The GoB is committed to growing the sector as part of its economic diversification strategy.  However, the sector is one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, both globally and domestically.  Nonetheless, the GoB has developed a recovery plan that would sell the country as a safer place to visit, taking advantage of low population density and therefore lower risk of COVID-19 infection.  Botswana seeks to broaden the tourism base by adding more product components and increasing the geographic spread of tourism.  While to date Botswana tourism has focused almost exclusively on high-end consumers, the GoB is interested in expanding into the mid-range market.  Providing consistent quality service remains the main challenge.  

The government encourages new investments and joint ventures in tourism and continues to play a major role in the development of tourism projects.  The GoB recently announced a new tourism policy that will give citizens an exclusive opportunity to provide tourism services by reserving some licenses for citizen operators only.  The government has further reserved certain new safari concessions for citizens.  New hotels (including U.S. brands) and conference facilities have opened in the past few years, increasing the country’s ability to host international conferences and events.  The government continues to upgrade infrastructure in wildlife-protected areas (natural parks and game reserves).  Government regulators continue to approve the opening of lodge sites within four of the largest national parks.  

While there are now two high-quality hotel and conference facilities in Gaborone, there are occasionally shortages of hotel rooms in the capital during major conferences and summits.  There is presently insufficient capacity if Botswana hopes to expand business-related travel within the capital city, although some assess the hotel market in Gaborone to be saturated based on recent hotel development projects and current visit volumes.  The U.S. brand hotel Hilton opened a branch of its Garden Inn hotels in Botswana in 2019, and Marriott has agreed to manage an existing property. 

 The Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) is responsible for all operational functions of the tourism sector such as marketing, investment promotion, and the grading of tourism facilities to international standards.  

Sub-Sector Best Prospects  

Eco-tourism, midrange tourism excursions, hotels, lodges, resorts, direct flights, and restaurants are the best sub-sector prospects. 

Opportunities  

Joint ventures are being sought for hotel expansions and start-ups along the Trans-Kalahari Highway, joining Botswana and Namibia, and development of lodges in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, and forest reserves surrounding Chobe National Park.  A memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a trans-frontier conservation area, commonly referred to as the Limpopo/Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA), was signed in June 2006.  This is a unique partnership between the governments of Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, the private sector, and the local communities with the objective of creating new opportunities for eco-tourism.  The TFCA was later renamed to Greater Mapungubwe TFCA on June 19, 2009.  The Greater Mapungubwe is a similar concept with the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) TFCA that seeks to connect Protected Areas in Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Angola.  Member countries are working to simplify travel between protected areas in the five-country region through the implementation of the KAZA UniVisa for Botswana and the region.  

Web Resources  

  • Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation, and Tourism:  www.gov.bw/ministries/ministry-environment-natural-resources-conservation-and-tourism  
  • Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana:  www.hatab.bw  
  • The Tourist (Botswana Tourism Magazine):  TheTourist@botsnet.bw  
  • Botswana Tourism Organization:  www.botswanatourism.co.bw 
  • Ministry of Investment, Trade, and Industry:  www.mti.gov.bw