MASERU – The Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC), a state agency responsible for promotion of tourism, says it is on a mission to bring together stakeholders in the tourism sector to start working together. Mamello Morojele, Head of Project Product Development and Investment Promotion at the LTDC, said the corporation noticed that role players have been operating “without any coordination between them and this has been happening over time.”
She said coordination would translate to a situation where a tourist who came for sightseeing could also visit handicrafts, different destinations and therefore when a tourist was hoping to spend two days in one cluster, they would end up spending more. Morojele said all the players had to ensure that they benefit when they have tourists in their respective clusters, as they would know what other players are offering so that tourists know what they should expect in a particular cluster.
She said the idea of bringing the role players together and instilling the understanding of working in concert came after the institution realised that the players in the industry worked in silos and did not consult each other so that they could achieve their desired goals. She said the need for coordination resulted in sourcing some funding so that they could train the players in the industry.
As a pilot project the work has started in five tourism clusters including Makhoarane, which covers both Morija and Matsieng, Quthing, Semonkong, Maseru and brought together two districts of Leribe and Butha-Buthe as one cluster. This is because the two districts are closer to one another and often share the same tourism destinations in the northern region, according to Morojele. The project, she said, would be for two years and they would roll it out to other districts after reviewing how successful it worked in the piloted areas.
She said they would move into the second phase of the project knowing very well the strengths and weaknesses that they experienced in the first phase so that they could build on them. She said: “It is our ultimate goal as an institution to see every district having its own tourism clusters in order to be able to market and grow their areas collectively.” Apart from encouraging role players to co-ordinate, Morojele said they also need training to be equipped with skills.
“There is need for capacity building in the industry. Players have to be people who are conversant with what they are doing. They also need branding so that each on their own can stand out from the crowd,” she also said.
One of the tourism operators, Thabang Kokome, who owns Qiloane Tours in Makhoarane, said the initiative by LTDC was welcome and shed light that made them realise they have been sitting on diamond without knowing since he had been working as a tour operator from 1999.
“It is the first time the LTDC comes up with a model such as this one and we know it has been working in other countries. The model will help everybody to have a share in the industry. Some among us do not understand how tourism operates at all,” he said. Morojele, however, lamented the fact that tourism got a knock while the borders were closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic as no tourists visited the country.
She said as a result, most tourists’ destinations in the country suffered and financially bled owing to lack of business. Morojele said they were also encouraging tourism players to motivate domestic tourism as it can help generate income and sustain their businesses in the absence of international tourists – a plus when the country opens for global visitors.
According to the LTDC statistics in its 2018 Tourism Arrivals & Accommodation Statistics Report released in May 2019, Lesotho welcomed 1 172 648 visitors during the year, exceeding its target of increasing international tourism arrivals from approximately 422 000 to 800 000 by 2019. An additional 35 482 visitors were recorded in 2018, reflecting an increase of 3.1 percent. Under normal circumstances, tourism contributes 2.5 percent of Lesotho’s gross domestic product.