PLAYERS in the tourism sector have been called upon to collaborate with government to ensure the making of informed decisions and the monitoring of progress.
Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) Acting Chief Executive Officer, ‘Mamolemo Maleke, made the remarks in her address during the first Tourism Statistics Dissemination workshop at Avani Lesotho Hotel on Tuesday.
The workshops are meant to present and assess tourism information and statistics findings from the 2014 Arrivals and Accommodation statistics, Tourism Employment Survey and Domestic Tourism Survey. They will be held in various districts ending on 21 August in Thaba-Tseka.
The surveys, which were the first to be held in the country, were meant to determine the tourism sector’s impact on Lesotho’s overall economy as one of the sectors earmarked for growth. The surveys were also meant to assess tourism’s contribution and ranking in relation to other sectors.
According to Ms Maleke, the findings were invaluable for making informed planning and investment decisions by players in the tourism sector. She said they would also give the basis for anticipating and controlling change to maximize benefits.
The statistics, Ms Maleke noted, also assisted them in planning and designing marketing programmes in line with the tourism sector needs and demands as well as providing information for the provision of more competitive and attractive destinations.
“It is of paramount importance for our statistics to be reliable, timely and accurate for us to be able to make informed decisions, as alluded to, and monitor and evaluate progress in this sector,” she said.
“This can only be achieved through close collaboration with yourselves as the private sector and the government.”
She lauded the owners and managers of accommodation establishments for cooperating in providing LTDC with the required data on a monthly and quarterly basis.
“We urge you to continue providing us with this accurate and timely data as it is fundamental for good economic planning and sector development.”
According to the Tourism Employment Survey, the LTDC was compelled to seek assistance from Statistics South Africa due to challenges in the collection of international arrivals’ data at major border posts. Some of the inconsistencies were caused by the shortage of immigration staff at border posts.
Immigration officials are the sole custodians of the forms that are used to collect arrivals statistics while the LTDC processes the data. The problem was heightened when the Home Affairs ministry began automating border posts last year, since the new system was not able to store and provide data.
“The requested data from South Africa shows that 1,078,510 international visitors arrived in Lesotho in 2014 which is surprisingly more than twice the number that was reported in 2013 (432,966 international arrivals) when the Lesotho Immigration data was used,” the survey read.
“The huge difference in the above mentioned figures can be attributed to the fact that Lesotho has been using the manual system of filling immigration forms which was prone to a lot of inconsistencies while South Africa uses modernised and improved electronic system which are more reliable.”
The survey stated that in 2014, the top 10 inbound markets that visited Lesotho were South Africa, Zimbabwe, China, United States of America, Botswana, United Kingdom, India, Netherlands, Germany and Swaziland. South Africa was Lesotho’s largest inbound market of international visitor arrivals with 90 percent (968 742) followed by Zimbabwe with (1.9 percent) while the rest of the countries recorded below one percent.
Visitor arrivals for the months of April, August and December posted the highest number of arrivals with the highest recorded in December at 189 679.
LTDC Manager Research and Development, Mojalefa Mosoeu, told the Lesotho Times that over and above the challenge of collecting international arrivals’ data, underreporting was another reason for the spike in the numbers.
“In years past, there were many cases of under reporting, with numerous instances of people not bothering to fill-in the forms that were placed at border posts for various reasons,” Mr Mosoeu said, adding that it was compounded during peak periods such as Easter and Christmas holidays.
“We also didn’t collect data at small border posts like Ramatšeliso and Sephapho Gate, but South African immigration had figures for almost all our borders.”
The Domestic Tourism Survey revealed that tourism by Basotho was only 3,3 percent of the total overnight travel. The survey recommended the leveraging of Lesotho’s natural attractions and unique cultural sites by converting day visitors to overnight tourists. It also suggested offering concessions and incentives to both travellers and tourism businesses who participate in the domestic tourism marketing campaigns.
The survey called for the improvement of support infrastructure such as affordable accommodation and the use of schools trips, tours, camps and sport events as platforms for promoting tourism and changing attitudes.
On its part, the Tourism Employment Survey revealed that Lesotho’s tourism industry employed an estimated 4 737 people working at hotels, lodges, guest houses, bed & breakfast, hostels, farmers training centres and home stays. It also stated that 97 percent of jobs in the industry were held by Basotho nationals, one percent by South African nationals and two percent from other countries.