African tour operators have reacted with surprise and shock to Botswana's decision to tighten travel regulations for families with children in an attempt to combat human trafficking.

Visitors traveling to Botswana with children under 18 years old must present a certified copy of the child's unabridged birth certificate upon entering the country in addition to a valid passport.

In the event that one parent is not traveling with the group, he or she will need to sign an affidavit consenting to the child traveling. However, an affidavit will not be required if the father's name does not appear on the child's birth certificate.

The Botswana requirements are similar to the rules South Africa introduced in 2015, which many in the tourism industry said damaged that country's tourism industry.

Onne Vegter, co-founder and managing director of Wild Wings Safaris, said there is no doubt that family travel to Botswana will be impacted. "Airlines will turn away tourists at foreign airports just like South Africa has seen on a daily basis," Vegter said. "The real question is whether such measurements will have any effect in terms of protecting children."

Henk Graaff, managing director at SW Africa, agreed, saying that although the intentions are honorable, the implementation often leads to problems. He said: "The question also remains if the enforcement will be as vigilant and strictly applied at the land borders as they are at the airports, and therefore it if it is worth the cost if it is not properly and consistently enforced."

However, according to Andy Raggett, owner Drive Botswana, the impact won't be felt as much as in South Africa due to the fact that fewer families travel to Botswana. He said: "Being a high-cost destination and with many camps and lodges having strict child policies, families tend to go to neighboring countries."


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