BOTSWANA CANCELS US$30 TOURIST LEVY


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This week HATAB said it was not aware that the Bill had been withdrawn and expressed shock that they were not informed that a decision had been taken to withdraw the levy.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.

#WATERCRISIS: CAPE TOWN’S ‘WATER ECONOMY’ bOOMS


Cape Town – In recent months, water and water-related products such as storage tanks, sanitisers, plastic buckets and water pumps have been sought en masse.
Chief executive at PriceCheck Kevin Tucker said statistics from their website show a massive jump in searches for water-related products.

“A number of retailers are promoting things like bottled water specials. We’ve seen the search for bottled water increase by 577% in the past month, which indicated a bit of panic buying,” said Tucker.

“The price increases we’ve seen aren’t necessarily at shops, but rather individual products or categories of specialised products. Where products are scarce and specialised, the prices will and have gone up. Service providers have increased their prices.”

Tucker added: “The principles of supply and demand still apply, and we know that the demand has increased substantially, therefore it’s likely that increased prices will become the norm for as long as the crisis and demand exists.”

Businesses are, meanwhile, heeding calls to join forces with the government and civil society to save water as Cape Town races towards Day Zero.

Organisers of Cape Town’s annual horse-racing meet, the Sun Met, confirmed this week they would not be tapping into the city’s fast-depleting water reserves.

Chief operations officer of Sun International Rob Collins, which runs today’s event at Kenilworth Racecourse, said they have provided 60 000 litres of water to “service guests and racegoers”.

“Furthermore, a plan will be made and put into action to ensure that any surplus water following the Sun Met event is put to use to help alleviate the Cape Town water crisis,” said Collins.

The Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), a landmark conference and events venue in the city, launched its new R900million expansion this week.

Both city mayor Patricia de Lille and provincial premier Helen Zille, who are facing a backlash for not acting sooner to avert the water crisis, were at the opening ceremony on Thursday night.

The centre’s chief executive Julie-May Ellingson said since their first building opened in 2003, they have hosted nearly 7000 events.

Ellingson could not avoid questions about the centre’s impact on Cape Town’s water crisis. She told the gathering they had already “implemented several water savings measures to reduce the centre’s water consumption”.

“Most of our water savings initiatives take place behind the scenes and are part of our facilities management operations,” she said.

“The CTICC has been running water conservation initiatives for several years. By the 2015/16 financial year, the centre had already been using 10 million litres less water than it did five years earlier.

“As the drought intensified, the centre also installed storage tanks to capture rain water and increased the grey water storage capacity. Additional augmentation systems are under consideration but the focus remains on minimising water usage wherever possible.”

However, not all businesses have found favour with locals.

This week, Newlands-based South African Breweries (SAB) faced criticism.

The recently-established Cape Town Water Crisis Coalition criticised the company for its lack of assistance regarding the water crisis after it offered to bottle a million cases of water bottles, totalling nine million litres, if Day Zero arrives.

The coalition, which has at least 64 organisational affiliates, described the company’s assistance as paltry.

Its statement said that “your minimalist offer of handing out bottled water to the masses on Day Zero was highly insulting when you receive millions of litres of our spring water for free, every day”.

The coalition was referring to the contentious matter of the natural spring from which the company draws water for its products.

“Is this all that one of the world’s largest beverage companies can give?

“This offer of yours is to distract us from the fact that you are continuing to profit from free spring water.”John Stenslunde, SAB Newlands Brewery plant manager, said the Newlands Spring situated on its property would remain open to the public.

“Newlands will further reduce its dependency on the municipal water grid, using only spring and borehole water. This will free up approximately 1.7-million additional litres of water per month to the City of Cape Town.”

NEW ENTRY REQUIREMENTS FOR KIDS TO SA


As of 1 June all minors under the age of 18 will have to present additional documentation to gain entry or exit to/from South Africa. Minors will have to present an unabridged birth certificate along with their passport in order to pass through customs. If not accompanied by both adults mentioned thereon, they will need to present further documentation giving permission for travel. The Department of Home Affairs South Africa has issued this online leaflet to assist with understanding the above law. It can be viewed by clicking HERE

BLUE TRAIN HEADS TO KRUGER IN 2016


The Blue Train have announced that in 2016 they will be heading up to “Big 5” country with the launch of their brand new Hoedspruit departures. The Blue Train will make two round trips up to the Limpopo Province, one in July and the other in August, offering guests the choice of four spectacular 19-hour one way journeys. These new departures will enable some fantastic new “rail safari” combination packages with the many wildlife reserves and private safari lodges in the Greater Kruger and Sabi Sands area.

For those wanting to take the Blue Train northbound, the train will travel from Pretoria to Hoedspruit on Friday 8 July and again on Friday 12 August 2016, departing at 15h00 in the afternoon and arriving at 10h00 the next morning.

Those wanting to enjoy the rail journey after their safari can opt to travel southbound from Hoedspruit to Pretoria on either Saturday 9 July or Saturday 13 August 2016. The train departing at 15h00 in the afternoon and arrives at 10h00, allowing plenty of time for those wanting to catch international flights home.

These one way journeys between Pretoria and Hoedspruit in either direction take 19 hours as opposed to the usual 27 hours between Cape Town and Pretoria – an attractive option for those with this Blue Jewel on their travel bucket list.