The government of Botswana says the call to boycott travel to the country, due to reported rights abuses of the indigenous San people, has not had a marked effect on tourism numbers to the African country.
Survival International, a non –profit that champion’s tribal people’s rights, initiated the travel boycott to Botswana, until the country upholds the San – who are also referred to as Bushmen – right to freely access their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).
The San people regard the CKGR as their ancestral land and they have been involved in a legal wrangle with government over access to the land ever since they were first evicted from the CKGR in 2002.
The Bushmen live in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Angola. They are referred to as the indigenous people of southern Africa.
At the most recent World Travel Market in London, where Botswana was promoting tourism to the country, Survival International urged visitors to the Market not to consider the country as a travel destination.
In a press statement, the organisation said: “…while it uses glossy images of the Bushmen to promote trips to the country, the government is driving the tribe off their ancestral land by preventing the Bushmen from hunting – and requiring many to apply for permits to visit their families, akin to the controversial Pass Laws designed to control the movement of black Africans and which effectively separated black families under apartheid South Africa.
“Since Survival launched its boycott in September 2013, thousands of travellers have pledged not to visit Botswana until the government upholds the Bushmen’s right to freely access the CKGR, and travel companies Travelpickr, Horizonte Paralelo and Annie Bulmer Travel have joined Survival’s boycott.”
Meanwhile, Botswana’s government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay said that because of the country’s proactive role in nature conservation “public perception is in our favor.” He added that the travel boycott is taken seriously since “we have to protect the reputation of our country.”
Ramsay continued: “Africa’s position is that we don’t recognise some indigenous people as more indigenous than others. We don’t pretend to not have issues. But issues of rural development are not easy… we don’t have subsistence hunter gatherers anymore.”
Ramsay added that San communities are also being hurt by the travel boycott given that they also benefit from local tourism initiatives.