Overhauling Botswana's 19-year old protected area user fees system

Botswana tourism PA fees
Botswana tourism PA fees

BIOFIN Botswana-UNDP in collaboration with the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National parks embarked on a consultative process and assessment of Protected Area (PA) assets and facilities as well as the services in Chobe National parks, Moremi game reserve, Makgadikgadi Pans, Nxhai pans and Khutse Game Reserve. The Khama Rhino Sanctuary and the Mokolodi foundations were also included as privately-run Protected areas.

The tourism industry brings in a substantial amount of revenue for Botswana, as tourists flock to the country for its rich wildlife and ecosystems, many of which are in designated protected areas. However, the fees tourists and locals pay to enter and use protected areas have not changed for almost 20 years.

There is a clear opportunity to increase revenue in Protected Areas fees and has the widespread backing from government and the tourism and related sectors.

“We are not maximizing our benefits for conservation and management of our natural assets, as well as driving sustainable economic growth if a tourist is being charged the same fee to see these natural wonders and experience the unique wild places we have on offer here in Botswana as they were in the year 2000,” said Dr. Cyril Taolo the acting Director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

This consensus for change was demonstrated at recent stakeholder workshops held in Kasane and Maun. Participants agreed that a substantial increase is acceptable if parts of the fees remain within the Protected Areas systems to be used by communities, other tourism stakeholders and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) for the upkeep and maintenance of the Protected Areas.

“This supports the intentions by both DWNP and BIOFIN in Botswana to also advocate for revenue retentions within the DWNP parks systems,” said Rethobogile Botebele, BIOFIN Project Lead and Senior Public Finance Expert.

Currently, revenue from the protected areas is channeled back into the central finances of the country and budgets are crafted for their management from there. They do not retain direct revenue raised.

“We must ensure a significant part of the revenue earned from Protected Areas is put directly back into the management of the parks and the wildlife and ecosystems, upkeep and development of facilities, building a world-class workforce of well-trained people to manage these protected areas, and support the tourism ventures that are the foundation of the industry,” said Dr. Cyril Taolo.

There are promising signs and interest was shown by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development who requested the second desktop briefing by both BIOFIN Botswana and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to understand more about a new Protected Area fees system on revenue generation increases and revenue retentions.

Community-Based Organizations in Botswana such as the Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust which holds the NG32 Wildlife Management Areas Concession also collects similar fees by the government for implementations of community activities and projects. Therefore, increases in Protected Area fees will also increase revenue for these communities.