By Thamani Shabani
Gaborone — President Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama has been named Botswana’s first Honorary Tourism ambassador to infinity by the Botswana Tourism Industry through the chairmanship of the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) and the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism.
The award was bestowed on him by the BTO board chairperson, Mr Larry Khupe at a farewell gala dinner hosted by BTO at Gaborone’s Avani Hotel on March 27.
Accepting the award, President Khama said he was delighted because tourism had always been close to his heart even before he left the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) to join politics.
“Tourism has been a great passion for me and I will take the award seriously to sell Botswana locally and abroad,” said President Khama.
He applauded Mr Khupe, saying BTO had won many awards under his leadership, expressing hope that the tourism organisation would continue to do well in the industry.
Mr Khupe explained that BTO had decided to honour the President in recognition of unwavering commitment to upholding Botswana’s excellent reputation as a global leader in ecotourism, cemented in sustainability, conservation and cultural heritage.
“It is our belief as BTO and tourism industry that we cannot afford to let our number one supporter depart the stage when tourism in Botswana continues to grow and prosper, providing dreams and lasting opportunities for generations to come, without showing our appreciation of him,” said Mr Khupe before bestowing the award on President Khama.
He said President Khama’s unwavering support for bold actions towards ensuring quality, sustainability and diversification within tourism, coupled with an aggressive marketing campaign had today resulted in Botswana being one of the most celebrated and sought after destinations in the world.
“By merit of the title bestowed, tourism will continue to thrive as a pristine and highly valued place to experience and travel while safeguarding and growing the livelihoods of Batswana for generations to come,” Mr Khupe added.
He said through President Khama’s vision, tourism continued to bring real beneficiation to the rural communities who reside in or are close to tourism hubs and wildlife areas.
Mr Khupe explained further that it was no accident that after minerals, tourism was the largest contributor to the national economy, with direct and indirect employment providing more opportunities for Batswana than any other industry as a whole.
Giving a vote of thanks, the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Mr Tshekedi Khama explained that the achievements and awards that BTO had received were too many to mention, but highlighted a few.
These include the introduction of the five star grading system to ensure standards and quality in the hospitality in 2006; the 2010 World Travel and Tourism Council for Tomorrow destination award by the Okavango Delta Ramsar site In Chobe, Makgadikgadi and Okavango Delta as well as the global campaign with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Travel Channel in 2014.
President Khama was treated to a beautiful send off by various musicians in the likes of Puna Gabasiane, Shanti Lo, and ATI, amongst others, as an appreciation for his contribution towards the development of the country as he will be stepping down on March 31 to pave way for his deputy, Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi.
The stage came to light when President danced to Dr Vom’s immensely popular song, Tsaya Thobane, to entertain the crowd among them Mr Masisi, Cabinet Ministers, captains of industries, and senior government officials.
Source : BOPA