The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) is considering reviewing and grading the country’s protected areas. This is with the aim of hiking entrance fees and improving service delivery in the national parks.
DWNP Director, Cyril Taolo explained they also want to reduce congestion in the riverfront along the Okavango Delta and control traffic to protect Botswana’s environment and natural resources.
“There is the need to maintain our parks and manage visitors. We have found that more visitors prefer the riverfront and if we increase fees and differentiate visiting schedules, we are hoping we will reduce the congestion,” he said.
By December, Taolo intends to have sent recommendations to the government for consideration ahead of the next financial year, which begins April 2020. Currently, his team is going around the country holding consultative workshops on what needs to be done in terms of developing the management of protected areas and setting park fees.
Taolo noted that the country has not changed its fees in 19 years, with Botswana charges being the lowest in the region. This applies not only to the parks but the borders as well. Botswana currently charges citizens P10 and visitors P120 for entry into its parks.
Additionally, according to Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BioFin), the country is the most lenient in terms of free entry for young children. While other countries charge children from three-years-old, in Botswana children aged up to 8 enter free. BioFin suggests Botswana is not making enough money through its parks to cover the expenditure in related areas, including dealing with problem animals and salaries.
Taolo shares a similar sentiment, stressing that 60% of the annual budget they receive from the government goes to salaries alone. Thus, he strongly believes that by increasing entry fees into the parks, the country can enjoy better a better return from its natural resources.
“A lot needs to be done to revamp our tourism destinations. The government needs to put automated systems in place to make it easier for our clients to book, as well as make their experience enjoyable and memorable,” he stated, adding that at the same time the price review should not be set too high for locals as the aim is to encourage them to equally access and enjoy their parks.