…as the tourism sector remains a key potential source for job creation
THE Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) has been urged to inject life into Lesotho’s tourism industry by implementing new ideas and exploring other avenues to make the country an attractive tourism destination.
A consultative meeting of different sectors this week exhorted the LTDC to be much more proactive in exploring new areas of interest to woo tourists. The meeting at the ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru was convened to discuss and agree on critical aspects that must be incorporated into the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) III, following the lapse of the NSDP II in March this year. Tourism is seen as one of the cornerstones for industrial development and job creation in Lesotho.
The spotlight at the meeting fell on the LTDC which was advised to fiercely promote local products and their places of origin, among other things, to woo tourists. In other countries, places where specific goods and products are produced are fiercely promoted as tourist destinations.
The meeting was primarily meant to make preparations for the drafting of NSDP III while reviewing the extent to which the goals of NSDP II had been met in areas like agriculture, tourism, technology and innovation and manufacturing, among others.
Lieketseng Selinyane, a director in the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism, to which the LTDC is accountable, detailed the NSDP II objectives they had achieved in the tourism segment.
“We wanted to increase tourism investments to enhance the attractiveness of tourism sites… We therefore upgraded infrastructure at tourism sites such as the construction of Semonkong visitors’ centre, and this was done through the support of the government of Lesotho. We have also engaged an operator to run the facility,” Ms Selinyane said.
“Secondly, we wanted to create platforms for innovation in tourism in collaboration with stakeholders and through it, have established tourism cluster development programmes which comprise of all the interested stakeholders in tourism.”
Ms Selinyane said the aim of developing community-based strategies for increased participation of local communities within tourism value chains had been achieved in some areas. They had been able to engage and work with communities in educating them about the importance of domestic tourism.
“We have established a tourism promotion program with the private sector where women seem to be participating and taking a lead in tourism, the program is a way of increasing collaboration in the tourism sector,” Ms Selinyane said.
However, Finance and Development Planning Principal Secretary Teboho Mohokela said there was still need for the LTDC to do more in promoting tourism and ensuring that Lesotho became the “preferred destination of attraction” for tourists. There was need for the LTDC to explore aspects of the sector that had not been fully exploited
“There is a need to promote or add aqua tourism in your products when selling Lesotho to tourists. Lesotho has an abundance of water therefore we should use it to our advantage. The Clean City Campaign should take shape in this country because one cannot bring tourists into a country where there is littering. The promotion of a clean country will hook more tourists. For instance, Japan is known for having clean streets whose pavements one could eat from. They have litter boxes for every disposable thing,” Ms Mohokela said.
According to Ms Mohokela, tour operators were yet to begin taking tourists to factories, where tourists could see what Basotho were producing in that sector. Such sightseeing tours, she said, would stimulate the private sector “so that investment can expand”.
“We should also have monuments in this country. There are a lot of heroes who have died and were not honoured, such as the likes of Bereng who died at Ha Nohana….. In that way we will hook tourists who want to hear the rich Basotho history and stories,” she said.
Ms Mahokela also made reference to key agricultural products like potatoes. She urged the LTDC to look at building tourism around such products. Potatoes were produced in huge quantities in Lesotho due to favourable climate conditions. Yet she had never heard of any attempts to organise “potato festivals” in the country”. She asked why the LTDC was “failing to use that to their advantage”.
Other countries have successfully built tourism around products and places where these are produced. For instance in France, Cognac, the place where the popular alcohol, Hennessy, is produced is a major tourist attraction. South Africa’s wine belt around Stellenbosch is a major tourist attraction. Several places that produce craft beers in South Africa do conduct regular “beer festivals”. Places like Semonkong in Lesotho where potatoes where produced in abundance could do “potato festivals”.
Another travesty, Ms Mahokela said, was that International tourists could not access the LTDC’s website. She lamented the fact that “the website has been down since 2020 when the world was brought to a halt by the Covid-19 pandemic”.