Tourism from a Provider's Perspective
|Tourists traveling by Mokoro in the Delta.|
In my June 19 report, I speculated about tourism in the Delta. Does it have a positive or negative impact on the conservation of the region?
I'm not sure anyone has the final answer on this complex question, but I figured AquaRAP scientists – all of whom have been either living or working in this area for many years – would have some insight. I discovered that many of them believe that tourism in the Delta is well managed and didn't see any obvious signs that it's having a detrimental effect.
IN DEPTH: Learn more about ecotourism.
Providing another perspective, Peter Sandenbergh – owner of Oddballs and several other resort facilities – addressed our group on our final night in the Delta. Peter has lived in Maun, just south of the Delta, for more than 15 years and had some interesting insights. I've paraphrased his comments below.
The presence of the Delta lends a huge natural resource to this desert-dominated country. Years ago, it was debated how to best use this resource. Tobacco and cattle were considered, but fortunately, the government decided to pursue tourism. Around 1991, the country's tourism policy was put in place, with the objective to gain the greatest economic and social benefit for the people of Botswana without eroding the resources.
Responsibility then devolved to local authorities to develop a management plan for the Delta. After much community consultation, the area was divided into areas for different kinds of use; Moremi Game Reserve was set aside as the main protected area, while other areas were designated for multiple use (meaning hunting is allowed), photographic or community use.
|Omninous Sign for Travelers?|
The overall policy and management plans are good, but there are still threats. This is a wilderness resource, and from my perspective, mechanical noise is the greatest problem. Fortunately, this is a short-term and controllable form of pollution. As a tour operator, I look at how to bring the most enjoyment to people while conducting my activities in a way that doesn't negatively impact wildlife.
However, when it comes to monitoring the activities of some tourism operators, the authorities fall short. For example, scenic flights by airplane below a certain altitude are only allowable in certain areas – but flights are conducted outside these areas on a regular basis. Regulations are also in place that designate the area around Oddballs as a motor boat-free zone, but motor boats are still in use. Some tourism operators have also been successful in getting airstrips put in near their resorts, despite regulations forbidding them.
In my view, Botswana has a strong tourism policy and regulations, but we fall short in implementation. This must change in order to protect the Delta's resources for future generations.
– Reported by Clare Nielsen
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