LESOTHO’S tourism sector recorded a modest 3, 1 percent growth in tourist arrivals in 2018.
This was said by the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation’s LTDC Public Relations Manager ’Manchafalo Motṧoeneng in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.
Ms Motṧoeneng said the marginal increase in tourist arrivals showed there was progress in the sector which is expected to become one of the key drivers of economic growth. Ms Motṧoeneng said 90 percent of the tourists came from South Africa which recorded close to 1, 6 million visitors in the period under review.
“The 2018 tourism statistics indicate that the total tourists’ arrivals to Lesotho grew by 3, 1 percent in 2018 relative to 2017,” Ms Motṧoeneng said.
“The tourism receipts also grew from M844 million to M905 million between 2016 and 2017 while approximately M923 million was recorded in 2018. These figures are clear indications that we are moving in the right direction and that the industry is growing.
“We also expect the tourism businesses improve. The observed pattern is a function of tourism promotion strategies that the LTDC has implemented in the areas of quality assurance, reputation management and sensitisation, tourism skills development, community mobilisation to name a few and the advent of the academic institutions that offer travel and tourism courses; which plays a role in youth participation in tourism related businesses and initiatives.
“This is evident from the emergence of blossoming outdoor events such as braai festivals, picnics and hiking expeditions and young tourism business operators who are showing a commendable progress and commitment in shaping the industry through the sale of packaged tours.
Although Ms Motṧoeneng conceded the rate of growth has been slower than the ideal rate, she praised the youth for their part in the growth of domestic tourism.
She said the industry is also implementing various measures to stimulate growth, among them the Quality Star Grading Programme which started in 2013 and is aimed at ensuring that all local commercial hospitality facilities adhere to international standards.
“Notable progress in the promotion of quality services has also been observed, evidenced by the enrolment of 105 accommodation establishments into the Quality Star Grading Programme and 31 of which these have been graded.
“The QUALStar grading gives potential clients, especially tourists, an idea of the level of service quality to expect should they book into a particular facility and it also boosts the profile of the hospitality sector), training of tourism service providers such as tour guides and rural home stay owners across the country.
“On reputation management, our solid collaboration with relevant stakeholders has yielded positive results because we have managed to reduce the incidences of all forms of tourist harassment.
“The grading would give potential clients, especially tourists, an idea of what service to expect should they book into that facility and also to boost the profile of the hospitality sector. Given that the government has identified tourism as one of the key sectors to foster economic development, the programme was among the initiatives meant to achieve that goal.
“In 2015, the grading criteria was reviewed because the initial system did not speak to the needs of the local market and right now, we are realising positive enrolment in the programme by hospitality establishments.
“Since the review of the system, 105 establishments that have enrolled in the programme and out of these 31 are already graded. The rest are being monitored and being hand-held by the LTDC in preparation for their eventual grading.”
She said the implementation of the domestic tourism stimulation campaign dubbed ‘Visit your country first’ has contributed significantly in changing the perception of Basotho about traveling as locals now travel more around the country, visiting different tourism attractions. Ms Motṧoeneng however, said there was still room for improvement since the aim is to realise the much-needed tourism potential in Lesotho where every Mosotho can enjoy the benefits of tourism.
“We are promoting hospitality best practices through our sensitisation programmes with all stakeholders including herd boys, hospitality owners and we are even training tour guides. The tour guides are the pillars of the tourism sector because as a tourist you need a tour guide when you visit a tourist attraction. Some of those we have trained have even started their own businesses and one of these is the She-Hikes which concentrates on women’s hiking.
“We have also trained the rural homestay operators in Qacha’s Nek, Morija, Leribe, Thabane Bosiu, Ha Kome, Butha-Buthe and other areas around the country. This is very important because tourism in Lesotho is mostly concentrated in the rural areas so we really need to promote the community participation in the rural areas,” she said.
She said apart from South Africa, other significant numbers came from Germany, Netherlands, eSwatini and Botswana.
“Arrival to Lesotho come from different countries across the globe but South Africa is the main source markets for arrivals to Lesotho and over the years, more than 90 percent of total arrivals were from South Africa. 1 560 433 visitors came from South Africa in 2018 and this recorded a growth of four percent from the previous year.
“The other major source markets are Germany, United States of America, Netherlands, eSwatini, Botswana and Zimbabwe although a slight drop in arrivals from Botswana, Netherlands and Zimbabwe was noted in 2018,” Ms Motṧoeneng said.