Tourists return to Botswana as country opens up

GABORONE, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Botswana saw the long-waited return of foreign tourists as a flight of Ethiopian Airlines landed at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport here on Saturday.

File photo: CFP

This was the first arrival of passenger airlines and international tourists in Botswana, flown in by Ethiopia's national carrier after Botswana eased international travel restrictions early this month.

At least 21 tourists arrived in the country over the weekend, a milestone in Botswana's tourism industry that was almost crippled after the country banned all international travels to control the spread of COVID-19 some seven months ago.

Commenting on the move, Mesay Ayalew, Ethiopian Airlines' regional manager for Gaborone, said it gave him great pleasure to be able to fly into the country again following a long hiatus.

He said Ethiopian Airlines hopes to play a big role in the resuscitation of Botswana tourism industry, while resuming its business operations which have suffered a lot in the past months.

He said they will continue to ensure that health protocols set to control the spread of COVID-19 are adhered to by all their passengers.

For his part, Botswana's Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness Sethomo Lelatisitswe said the return of international travelers was a welcome development as it would boost the recovery of many sectors of the economy that have suffered from the pandemic.

He said while it was important to open up the economy, it was equally important to ensure that health protocols to prevent the spread of the virus are followed as a vaccine is yet to be found.

Botswana earlier this month announced lifting of international travel restrictions with requirements to control the spread of COVID-19.

The measures include a requirement for inbound travelers to have a negative COVID-19 test that was done not more than 48 hours before.