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‘Target conference tourism

by Lesotho Times
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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.”

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