Botswana says travel bans over Omicron a big blow to its tourism sector
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Botswana said on Monday that travel bans imposed on southern African countries due to the presence of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 have hurt its tourism sector just as the country was preparing for its summer holiday season.
The restrictions are yet another setback for Botswana’s battered tourism industry, which has already taken a beating as a result of the border closure and on-and-off domestic lockdowns over the past year and a half, said Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Philda Kereng.
“It's painful because the variant was announced at a time when our economy was starting to recover, and the country was registering very low numbers of new Covid-19 cases, and 80% of tourism sector workers had received the vaccination," the minister told a local radio station in Gaborone on Monday.
The tourism sector had received a high volume of bookings, with some hotels completely booked for the summer holiday, Kereng said.
She expressed concern that the travel bans came so quickly at a time when the variant was still new and scientists were still assessing and analysing the virus to learn more about it.
Since the announcement of the discovery of the new variant, Botswana has received cancellations of bookings, Kereng said.
She said tourists could consider postponing their trips rather than cancelling their reservations.
Britain and the US, which account for the majority of overseas visitors to Botswana, have placed southern African states, including Botswana, on a travel red list over concerns about the Omicron variant.
In 2019, tourism contributed 13.1% of Botswana’s gross domestic product (GDP), and the travel and tourism sector provided 8.9% of total employment.
Botswana has so far reported 19 cases of the Omicron variant.