By Tsitsi Matope
MASERU — Lack of facilities to host high-level meetings and seminars is robbing Lesotho of a chance to cash-in on conference tourism, the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) says.
In a recent interview, the LTDC’s Investment Promotions Manager, ‘Mamello Morojele, said while Lesotho has made strides in implementing the hospitality star-grading system, there is also need to seriously consider establishing modern meeting venues while expanding the existing ones.
Morojele further said lack of venues which adequately answer the needs of high-level meetings and seminars is denying the country of a chance to cash-in on conference-tourism.
In countries such as South Africa and Kenya, conference-tourism significantly contributes to the annual tourism revenue.
However, Lesotho lacks facilities to host big international meetings, especially those attended by heads-of-state and other high-profile dignitaries.
“We don’t have conference facilities that can provide adequate executive suites for all heads-of-state in the Sadc (Southern African Development Community) region, for example.
“We cannot even talk of hosting an event that would bring world leaders together because of this inadequacy. We lack the capacity to provide the kind of services expected for such big occasions,” Morojele said.
While acknowledging that the ‘Manthabiseng National Convention Centre in Maseru is a decent conference venue Morojele, however, said it falls short in several ways.
“It is strategically positioned, yes, but ideally, it should also provide, among many other needs, accommodation, office-services and also have linguists for translations during international meetings.”
Government and the private sector, Morojele suggested, should work together in establishing and expanding the currently available facilities to ensure Lesotho also becomes a serious contender each time venues for big conferences are being considered.
“There are many developments that would also be stimulated if we have proper conference facilities. A good example is the transport industry which would need to be further developed, and regulations that govern the airline and rail sectors reviewed, to make our country more easily accessible.”
Because conferences can help market the country, Morojele said the flow of tourists would increase, hence the need to create pull-factors such as accessibility by rail, which is also a cheaper mode of transport.
Morojele again said at the moment, there are plans to upgrade the railway linking Lesotho with South Africa, which is being underutilised as it is only catering for the transportation of goods.
“If Lesotho is serious about establishing international conferencing facilities, we should then be well-prepared to also establish proper means of transport. We are aware that some parts of the road linking Lesotho with Johannesburg are not good while travelling by air is expensive mainly because of the erratic flow of travellers.
“We need Lesotho to frequently host major activities and this would significantly boost the flow of people, attract other airlines or even become the cause for us to have our own national airline. This development can also help reduce airfares.”