THE Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture will soon introduce a tourism levy that will be paid to the ministry by operators of tourism facilities.
The ministry will also introduce boom gates at the country’s major tourist attractions where local and foreign tourists will be required to pay an entrance fee to the facilities.
This was revealed by the outgoing principal in the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, Monaphathi Maraka, in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times this week.
Mr Maraka said the new measures are aimed at generating revenue for the promotion of the country as a destination of choice for local and international visitors. He said the entrance fees will also be ploughed back into the facilities for their care and maintenance.
He said although tourism was a multi-billion-dollar global industry, it’s current contribution to the fiscus was negligible due to the low budget allocation from government and limited investment by private players.
We are not just asking the taxpayer to pay more for tourism. We are asking our own authorities, that is, cabinet and parliament to implement levies and other means of revenue collection to promote tourism.
“The Ministry of Tourism is among those four ministries which are supposed to be economic drivers under the second National Strategic Development Plan (NSDPII) but presently there is a very low demand for tourism products,” Mr Maraka said.
“The demand is very low because we do not adequately market tourism and its products and so the facilities are lying idle.
“Part of the reason is that there is low investment in tourism. In Sesotho, we say, “mabele a lengoa ka amang” (to make money you must invest money). To address this, we are pursuing the introduction of a tourism levy which will be paid by operators of tourism facilities. The revenue will not go into the government coffers but come straight into the ministerial budget. The proposal will be submitted to cabinet and once approved this will be used to improve the situation.
“In addition to the levy, we are also thinking of introducing boom gates so that when you visit any of our tourist attractions, you pay a little M20 or something in that region and that will help to generate revenue for the ministry to oversee the growth of the tourist sector.
“The problem that we currently have is that our country is visited for free and nobody pays to see our beautiful facilities. So, we must begin to reap the benefits from the beautiful places in our country by charging an acceptable amount for access to these places. We are calling for greater investment and diversified sources of income to support tourism.”
Neighbouring South Africa is one of the countries that have a tourism levy which is aimed at supporting the growth of the tourism industry.