MASERU — For years, numerous reports detailing the stoning of tourists by some herdboys in many parts of the country have become a major headache for the tourism sector in Lesotho.
This explains why this year, the World Tourism Day celebrations are paying a special attention to the shepherds living around the Mohale Dam and also decided to make them guests of honour during the September 27 commemorations.
Mohale Dam is one of the water-sporting lovers’ hot spots and Jetty, an area near the dam, is the special venue chosen for this year’s World Tourism Day commemorations.
The World Tourism Day, set by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), is globally commemorated on September 27, but many countries in the Southern Africa Region, including Lesotho, line-up various tourism activities for the whole month of September.
This year’s theme: Tourism and Water, Protecting Our Common Future, highlights the important role water plays globally to diversify tourism products.
For Lesotho, which has one of the premium water attractions in the forms of springs, waterfalls and dams, there are still many potential tourism benefits to be tapped into.
The chosen venue is home to the famous Lesotho Trout, the yellow fish and the critically- endangered Maloti Minnow while Thaba Chitja Island is the “must see” special component of the Mohale Dam.
However, it is in some parts of this beautiful area where rocks have been piled on some roads to barricade tourists’ vehicles from passing through.
Strange as it might appear, the acts of sabotage by some local communities point at how tourism authorities have for years neglected the very communities supposed to assume ownership of their natural resources and also the country’s major attractions.
In an interview with the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation’s Senior Tourism Officer, Molapo Matela yesterday, said plans are underway to roll-out the unique marketing strategy targeting shepherds in all areas around tourism hot spots.
These include, the notoriously dangerous route that connects Kwazulu-Natal and Mokhotlong, Sani Pass, the 192 metres high waterfall, Maletsunyane Falls in Semonkong (site of smoke), the World Heritage Site Sehlabathebe National Park in Quthing and Bokong Nature Reserve in the Katse area.
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Tourism education and making shepherds partners and tourism ambassadors, Matela said, would help them understand the economic value of the sector.
“We are targeting 50 shepherds from the villages of Ha-Mohale, Ha-Motloang, Ha Tsiu and Ha-Koporale, living around the Mohale Dam area.
“Apart from helping them to understand the diverse sector and how they can participate in its growth and also benefit from good customer care, we are also going to pamper them,” Matela said.
The shepherds are going to receive top class treatment, part of which they are expected to practice whenever they encounter tourists, who might, in some cases, have lost their way.
“They are to enjoy boat cruise and would also be spoiled to meals and other special surprise treats.”
The guests of honour are also going to receive the grey blankets popular among shepherds.
“However, these are going to be special blankets branded “Lesotho Haeso”, which is our domestic tourism marketing slogan.
“This reinforces the idea behind encouraging local communities to take interest in knowing areas that attract tourists to Lesotho, appreciate the beauty and work with them in our marketing campaigns.”