Bright future for tourism sector: LTDC

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THE Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) is upbeat about the country’s tourism prospects as it continues with various projects and initiatives aimed at ensuring the sector’s contribution to the country’s overall economic development grows significantly. This week, the Lesotho Times (LT) editor Herbert Moyo met with the LTDC’s Public Relations Manager ’Manchafalo Motṧoeneng (MM) to discuss the LTDC’s views on the state of tourism and its plans going forward. Below are excerpts of the interview.                                                   

LT: What is the state of the tourism sector and what is its contribution to the country’s economy?

MM: The 2018 tourism statistics indicate that the total tourists’ arrivals to Lesotho grew by 3, 1 percent in 2018 relative to 2017. 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 tourism businesses improve. The observed pattern is a function of tourism promotion strategies that 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 a myriad of booming 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.

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, 31 of which 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 tourists’ harassments.

The implementation of the domestic tourism stimulation campaign dubbed “Visit your country first” has contributed significantly in changing the perception of Basotho about traveling because locals are now traveling more around the country, visiting different tourism attractions. However, there is still room for improvement because the aim is to realise the much-needed tourism potential in Lesotho whereat every Mosotho can enjoy the benefits of tourism.

LT: You highlight the growth in domestic tourism. What are you doing by way of encouraging further growth in domestic tourism? Are there any specific incentives including price discounts and other special packages that you have introduced alongside tourism operators to boost local tourism?

MM:  We continue to promote domestic tourism through the visit your country first campaign and offer support to the tourism private sector for initiatives that directly seek to promote domestic tourism by way of guidance on available tourism investment opportunities that have the potential to attract the domestic market. We also disseminate information on tourism attractions, services and activities available across the country through our information offices in different districts and towns and through social media platforms. We also run competitions on social media where domestic travelers win local event entrance tickets and other travel packages with a view to encourage domestic travel. We also aim to create local tourism ambassadorship whereat those who have experienced the tourism will tell stories and evoke curiosity and the need to travel and experience different tourism products in the country. Support is offered to communities residing around the popular tourism sites and attractions to promote participation of the concerned communities by way of creating activities that will attract domestic travelers.

Entrance fees for tourism attractions are currently being reviewed and yes, to encourage domestic travel, entrance fees for locals are going to be lower than international visitors. We work closely with the private sector in tourism and their role is to establish tour packages and remarkable progress is observed in that regard. I have noted earlier that we are experiencing the emergence of youth tourism operators who seem to come up with commendable innovations and exciting activities that meet the needs of locals and international visitors.

LT: You mention the 3, 1 percent increase in tourist arrivals. Which countries are these tourists from?

MM: 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.

LT: There have been concerns that South Africa is marketing tourist attractions in Lesotho and other SADC countries as their own. Is this a cause for concern for you and are there any steps that you are taking to ensure that Lesotho’s attractions are correctly marketed internationally as Lesotho attractions?

MM: It is a cause for concern for us whenever Lesotho’s attractions are marketed as though they belong elsewhere. Obviously when this happens, the South African tour operators benefit from Lesotho’s tourist attractions. To address this, LTDC has developed the national tourism brand, which is meant to differentiate Lesotho from its competitors. That is why we encourage the local operators to use the tourism brand alongside their individual company brands for consumers to differentiate them. Efforts have also been made to develop Tourism Business Enterprises.  Further, efforts are being made to market Lesotho as an independent tourism destination through attendance of international tourism exhibitions held in Germany, Netherlands Cape Town and Durban every year. Such platforms are an opportunity for us to promote Lesotho as an independent tourism destination

LT: In our previous interview with the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, we learned that the tourism levy is about to be introduced, what is the tourism levy supposed to achieve?

MM: The tourism levy is another way of generating revenue within the industry and the revenue will be used for the country for both domestic and international travelers. It will also be used for infrastructural maintenance within the industry as well as for other relevant developments.

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