Gaborone – Fearing a backlash from tourism industry stakeholders, the government of Botswana has cancelled the introduction of a US$30 tax on tourists that was aimed at raising money to preserve its safari operations, it was revealed this week.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Conversation, Jimmy Opelo, told a Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting that his ministry had decided to withdraw with immediate effect the proposed Tourism Development Levy (TDL) Bill, which was scheduled to be tabled in December 2017.
“This withdrawal is to enable the Ministry and Botswana Tourism Organisation to conduct further engagement with various stakeholders,” he said.
Opelo said after conclusion of consultation with stakeholders there is a possibility that a revised version of the Bill would be re-tabled for consideration in accordance with established procedure.
Tourists were to pay the TDL fee at the Botswana airport from June this year and the tax excluded 15 countries that are members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
According to Opelo, Minister Responsible for Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, has written to Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi informing him of his intention to withdraw the Tourism Levy Bill.
The Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) had laid a complaint against the decision for not being involved in coming up with the charges.
This week HATAB said it was not aware that the Bill had been withdrawn and expressed shock that they were not informed that a decision had been taken to withdraw the levy.
“Even prior to the drafting of the Bill there was no consultation with stakeholders. The introduction of the levy was made at the ITB in Berlin, Germany, in September this year. This was in contradiction to our principle of consultation that we have always enjoyed as a nation,” she said.
She said the tourism industry was jittery following an announcement by Minister Khama that the levy would come into force this year in June.
“As much as the government has the prerogative to introduce any piece of legislation, this should be done after there has been consultation with relevant stakeholders to ensure that their input is taken into consideration to avoid a situation whereby they are affected negatively,” said Rakorong.
According to Rakorong, there was need to reconsider the name of the levy. She observed that it should be renamed entry levy instead of tourism levy, as it cut across all sectors and should be managed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Planning under the Consolidated Fund to ensure that there is accountability and transparency.
She further stated that there was need to conduct an impact assessment to ensure that the introduction of the levy did not lead to job losses and declining tourism revenue.