MASERU – Lesotho boasts a wealth of tourism assets such as outstanding natural beauty and a unique cultural heritage, factors which, according to the tourism authority, give the country a competitive edge in the tourism industry across the region.
As one of the world’s largest cash cows, tourism can create jobs, drive exports and generate prosperity for the struggling local economy.
According to the 2018 Travel and Tourism Economic Impact Report, the sector is shown to account for 10.4 percent of global GDP and 313 million jobs or 9.9 percent of total employment in 2017.
While tourism is contributing significantly to the world economy with a great potential going forward, Lesotho is still lagging behind as local businesses are failing to grab the opportunity and tap into the promising industry.
Ignorance has been regarded by Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) as one of the major setbacks curtailing the industry to reach its full potential.
As a result of the notable deterrents LTDC has since taken steps towards creating awareness about opportunities in the industry.
Recently the corporation has been holding a series of campaigns in different areas in the country in a move to create awareness and shed light on the endless opportunities in the tourism industry.
LTDC also takes advantage of the local cultural events such as the annual Moshoeshoe walk to spread the word.
“During our campaigns in different districts of the country, ignorance has been one of the major concerns regarding the opportunities in the tourism sector. And we have noticed that these visits are important because now more people from areas where we have been, are showing interest in our sector,” said LTDC Public Relations Officer Molapo Matela in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday this week.
Similarly, government is once again promising to promote investment in the sector in its policy pronouncement in the 2019/20 budget presentation recently.
Minister of finance Dr Moeketsi Majoro revealed during his presentation that cabinet has approved the establishment of the tourism development fund, which shall be funded by the tourism development levy. The ministry and LTDC are also in discussion with other potential investors in a move that seeks to develop the sector to its full potential.
According to the 2018 Travel and Tourism Economic Impact Report in Lesotho, the direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to the country’s GDP was LSL 1,915.5 million (USD143.2 mn), 6.3 percent of total GDP in 2017 and was forecast to rise by 1.7 percent in 2018 and to rise by 3.4 percent from 2018 to 2028.
The 2018 report further stated that the total contribution of travel and tourism to the country’s GDP is LSL 4,190.3 million (USD313.3m), 13.8 percent of GDP in 2017.
The contribution was forecast to rise by 2.3 percent in 2018 and to increase again by 3.6 percent in 2028.
In 2017 the industry directly supported 43, 000 jobs which were expected to rise to 55,000 jobs in 2028, according to the report.
To fulfil these growth projections, LTDC will have to put their eyes on the ball and engage with the private sector, according to Rethabile Phumane, owner of Phumane Hospitality and Tourism Group.
This will allow the two parties to have a clear road map that could see more people visiting the country in future.
Phumane, who is also the grading consultant at LTDC, revealed in an interview with Public Eye that interest from people is increasing in the sector but the chalenge has always been on the side of government to provide resources and implement ideas.
“The problem has been on the side of the government in terms of resources; they limit some of the resources we need at the places of interest in the country. I think they do not see things the same way as we do as the people in the industry because, for instance, sometimes we engage in long meetings and make recommendations which are never implemented,” Phumane said in an interview on Wednesday this week.
Another challenge, according to her, is on the side of the police who continue to solicit bribes from tourists who end up making a decision not to visit the country again.
“That affects business; these police officers take advantage of tourists and solicit huge amounts of money in the process,” she added.
Lesotho is home to numerous unique landmarks which can only be offered by the Mountain Kingdom.
Among many others, the country has the highest pub in Africa which is the Sani Top Chalet, Maletsunyane waterfall, which is the highest single drop waterfall in Southern Africa, as well as Thabana-Ntlenyana which is the highest peak in Southern Africa.