PLAYERS in the tourism industry have called on all sectors of the economy to prioritise tourism as it the potential to drive the country’s struggling economy.
Speaking to Lesotho Times recently, the stakeholders said given its exceptional natural beauty of rugged and lofty mountains, Lesotho should be harnessing its potential to attract large sums of tourist arrivals to boost economic activity.
Rethabile Stephen Morake, a tour operator who runs Leseli Tours, said Basotho are sleeping on tourism revenue as they are yet to fully embrace it in its different facets.
“We are often portrayed as a poor country but the truth is that we are in fact a blessed and rich country given the untapped tourism potential that we have,” Mr Morake said.
“We just need to realise where our economic power lies as a country and exploit it. I believe we are sleeping on a treasure unawares.”
Mr Morake said the natural scenic beauty and rich cultural heritage the country has are some of the appealing factors to tourists.
“For instance, our superior altitude is one of the biggest draw cards. We are the only country in the world that is wholly seated at above 1000 meters above sea level and that places us in a vantage point against the rest of the world. We are indeed a blessed nation.”
Mr Morake said to realise the full potential which the sector holds, all other sectors of the economy must be lobbied to engage in tourism.
“We should sensitise every member of the community including our politicians so that they can also help by formulating policies that promote tourism.”
He further said being in closer proximity to South Africa, which has done well to market its tourism, Lesotho can capitalise on the tourists destined for South Africa to also visit Lesotho during their stay in the neighbouring country.
“Consider the South African town of Clarence, which has virtually no tourist attractions yet it is a tourist hotspot because it has accommodation facilities for tourists visiting Lesotho.
“So, you have a situation where the tourists come to Lesotho during the day but go back to sleep in Clarence which is where they spend most of their money instead of here where the attractions are.
“I actually believe that tourism has better potential to drive our country’s economy than the mining sector. That’s how much I believe in tourism.
“Our natural resources are limited and there will be a time when they will be depleted, whereas with tourism, there is a never a time in which our tourist appeal will get finished,” he said.
For her part, ‘Marethabile Sekhiba who runs Scenery Guest houses in Maseru, said tourism is under-rated as there is little faith in the players in the sector by different sections of the community.
“If we prioritise tourism as it clearly deserves, this would not only help to grow the sector but would also influence other sectors of the economy to improve.
“Charity begins at home, so let us enjoy the natural beauty that this country has to offer.
“We need to hold each other’s hands in supporting this sector which I believe holds the key to many of our current socio-economic challenges,” Ms Sekhiba said.