MASERU – Women are the driving force behind the success of the hospitality and tourism industries as they constantly work hard to stay competitive.
In order to strengthen and empower this industry, the Women of Value Lesotho collaborated with the Women in Tourism Lesotho Association (WITLA) and the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) to host the 2nd Annual Women in Tourism Southern Africa Summit and Exhibition in Maseru, Lesotho, from November 27-29.
The platform provided space for business networking and mentorship, with a focus on entrepreneurship, women and youth empowerment, technology, and tourism value chains.
Experts from Africa and beyond shared their insights and knowledge on these topics, all under the overarching theme of “Accelerating economic growth through tourism value chains.”
It also brought together a diverse group of participants, including business professionals, both local and international buyers, exhibitors, government officials such as tourism ministers and the Tanzanian ambassador, directors of tourism boards, the chairperson of UNWTO Africa, the CEO of Acute Global Botswana, corporate executives and managers, managers from funding institutions, and other professionals from the sub-region.
All of these individuals share a passion for collaboration, knowledge sharing, innovation, and forming strategic partnerships to drive economic growth, particularly in the tourism sector.
In Lesotho, the hospitality and tourism sector predominantly comprises of women, accounting for more than 60 percent of the workforce.
According to a survey conducted by the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation in 2022, women dominate the workforce in the accommodation sector, accounting for 60.7% of the total workforce. In contrast, males make up 39.3% of the workforce in this sector.
During the WTSA Summit and Exhibition in Maseru, Basotho entrepreneurs and exhibitors took the opportunity to display and effectively showcase the rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and entrepreneurial spirit of Basotho and created memorable experiences for attendees.
While delivering her speech, the president of WITLA, Matšeliso Mokuoane, emphasised the importance of uniting key players, exchanging information, and encouraging teamwork to establish a plan for the tourism industry that is more comprehensive, varied, and successful, where women can flourish.
She said the conference provided Basotho women with a chance to showcase and conduct their businesses, as well as expose them to potential business prospects that they could take advantage of.
For his part, Prime Minister Samuel Ntsokoane Matekane showed that the summit and Expo 2023 has united both private and public sector players, along with trailblazers in the tourism industry, to promote women’s empowerment in the sector and encourage their involvement in the tourism value chain and industry.
“I am aware that this is going to be a platform to share information, inspire women in tourism, and hunt for opportunities to establish business partnerships and investments and share the markets,” he said.
Matekane further stated that Lesotho has made a commitment by signing the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development goals.
This effort is driven by the objective of attaining gender equality and empowering women in Lesotho. Within the NSDP II, the Government of Lesotho strives to enhance gender equality through various interventions that will augment equality, create employment opportunities, and foster inclusive growth.
“Seeing the potential of this sector, the Government of Lesotho has identified tourism as one of the four economic growth sectors. This, therefore, gives me the courage to believe that our country is on the right track to empower women through advancing this sector to attract more guests into the country,” said the Premier, adding that Lesotho, like numerous other nations, acknowledges the significance of tourism in economic growth.
It is worth noting that in Lesotho, as in many other countries, women play a pivotal role in driving the tourism and hospitality sectors.
Undoubtedly, this event will serve as a catalyst to empower these exceptional leaders within the industry.
Matekane further stressed that in Lesotho, 56 percent of the tourism sector enterprises are owned and led by women.
“This says that promoting this sector in this way is an effective way of providing access to economic empowerment opportunities for women, youth, and the rest of underprivileged community members because it is in women’s second nature to care for, share, and empower each other.
“This is what Lesotho’s tourism sector needs at this point, as we desire to see economic growth and employment creation. The role of women in the tourism industry, as well as their invaluable contribution to the economy at large and their leadership potential, cannot be overemphasised,” he said.
He therefore urged all participants to take home a good package of information on lessons, business contacts, and a new vision of where Lesotho must be in the next five years.
“Remember tourism is both local and international. I would like to see the resuscitation of local value chains like ‘home stays’ that are affordable and inclusive of our locals and that have the potential for economic benefit to our traditional tourism practitioners as well as cultural interchange for the benefit of our tourists. Basotho are known for their hospitality and welcoming nature; let us help them turn that into revenue generation,” he said.
Minister of Tourism Sports, Arts, and Culture, Motlatsi Maqelepo, highlighted that Lesotho’s tourism industry is considered young and experiencing a significant recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, statistics reveal that a majority of businesses in Lesotho fall under the small and medium enterprise category based on international standards.
“Our sectoral players are still limited in skills and exposure, hence the need for more skills training and networking. Though the number of tourism service providers is increasing, most of them are located in urban areas, with 56% found in Maseru,” Maqelepo said.
He further stated that in all the tourism sub-sectors, women are persistent.
“Basotho women have immersed themselves in taking advantage of the opportunities in the sector, participating in sub-sectors such as tourism enterprises, tour operators, and tour guides at events.
“We continue to see them going forth in leaps and bounds as more enterprises emerge and grow. I’m aware that regionally, women are fully participating in the tourism sector; evidence is this international summit we are attending.
“It calls for a round of applause. Noteworthy is our private sector has proven its capability to host conferences and events that attract participants beyond our borders who will bring us dollars,” the Minister also said.
A representative of WITSA, Dr. Limakatso Malwela, said their organisation aims to champion women in the tourism industry and value chain.
She said she could attest to the fact that when women are given a task to perform, they perfect it because they have so much passion.
“We do not want to leave any stone unturned here, and we want to be able to collaborate after this. We believe in the eco-system as women; we believe in working together for better output.”
The Chief Executive Officer of LTDC, Molupe Pheko, said their primary goal is to aid the private sector and businesses in enhancing their products. Additionally, he said they provide guidance on product writing and help secure funding from various sources, including banks and stakeholders.
Pheko further affirmed their commitment to supporting women in the tourism industry and assisting them in marketing their products.
He underscored their dedication to working alongside WITLA and preparing them for future success.