‘Opening borders can boost tourism’

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Nthatuoa Koeshe

OPENING the borders to tourists from South Africa would benefit the Lesotho tourism industry since it gets the majority of its visitors from that country.

This was said by the director of tourism in the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, ‘Mabolaoane Selinyane in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.

Lesotho’s borders have been closed since March this year when the government declared a national lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19. Exceptions to cross the borders have only been for emergencies, essential services and medical issues.

This has seen the majority of tourism establishments like hotels shutting down. Last week at least 90 Avani Hotels staff pleaded with former prime minister Thomas Thabane to engage Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro over salary subsidies. The workers said they have been starving since they were laid off in March this year.

Lesotho has so far recorded 1 164 Covid-19 cases. Of those, 568 have recovered while the country has also recorded 31 deaths.

And Ms Selinyane said they would soon engage the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) to consider opening the borders and boost tourism.

“We will have to engage NACOSEC on this but I think we are in a good position to start accommodating tourists as things stand,” Ms Selinyane said.

“We are not doing badly in terms of infections at the moment and generally people have warmed up to the idea of obeying health protocols.

“Since 90 percent of our tourist market is from outside the country, it will be an advantage for us if South Africa opens its borders.”

South Africa’s Tourism minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on 4 September2020 said they were also considering reopening foreign travel and said they would soon present their re-opening plan to cabinet.

“We are monitoring the risk of spreading the virus and we are satisfied with the current downward trend of new infections, if sustained, that can fast-track the reopening of regional borders soon,” Ms Kubayi-Ngubane said.

Ms Kubayi-Ngubane said their plan would focus on the continued growth of the domestic tourism industry as well as the restarting of the international tourism industry.

“The rise in domestic tourism together with regional travel will help us build confidence for global travelers’ so that when we eventually open all are borders, we will be able to attract travelers as a safe destination.”

If the plan succeeds, then this will likely see Lesotho reopening its own borders soon.

 

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