THE tourism industry is feeling the pinch of a drastic decline in the inflow of tourists as well as decreased spending by both corporate and individual consumers owing to the political and security instability rocking the Mountain Kingdom, the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) Public Relations Manager ‘Manchafalo Motšoeneng has said this week.
According to Ms Motšoeneng, despite the LTDC’s efforts in marketing Lesotho as a tourist and investment destination, the political turmoil had left the sector reeling.
“Businesses have reported a downturn in revenue for lodging, food, events and other hospitality services,” Ms Motšoeneng said.
“Unfortunately, we have no control over that even though we keep on delivering on our primary mandate of marketing and promoting the country as a preferred destination for tourists.
“The political crisis has really impacted negatively on the development of the tourism sector. At one stage we even discouraged the tourists from going to remote areas where they cannot easily be assisted in the event violence or an accident were to occur.”
Resultantly, added Ms Motšoeneng, such measures have put off tourists, hence the reeling of the sector.
According to the Travel & Tourism Economic Impact Report the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Lesotho’s Gross Domestic Product was at 4.6 percent in 2012.
This reflects economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services (excluding commuter services), as well as the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists.
According to the same criteria of travel and tourism activity, the industry supported 20 500 jobs in 2012, translating to 3.9 percent of total employment in the country. The World Travel & Tourism Council predicts that by 2023, travel and tourism will account for 29 000 jobs directly, an increase of 3.1 percent per year over the next decade.
However, according to Ms Motšoeneng, this upward trend had ebbed because of the political environment as tourists to Lesotho want to engage in carefree excursions to explore the Mountain Kingdom’s bountiful natural resources and cultural heritage.
While the LTDC is yet to get quantifiable statistics on the drop in the inflow of tourists, Ms Motšoeneng explained they rely on the immigration department, among other sources, for information on arrivals. From the data at their disposal, it was evident the tourism sector had sustained “unbearable shocks”.
“The decline resulted not only from fewer customers in hotels, restaurants, conference and convention centres, but also from a signiﬁcant decline in the average expenditure per guest, which is a great loss to the economy even though we cannot now give the exact statistics since we rely on figures from the immigration sector,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP) Manager Chaba Mokuku has said they are working on the development of handicrafts as one of the key areas to enhance the tourism sector.
“The development of handicrafts would reduce the negative impact of tourism and, instead, enhance linkages between vulnerable locals in and adjacent to tourism destinations and the tourism sector,” Mr Mokuku said.
“The programme promotes interventions that create inclusive tourism business models, promoting stakeholder partnerships and the inclusion of local producers and service providers into tourism supply chains, supply capacity and facilitates access to international markets.
Under the PSCEDP initiative, handicraft producers would be trained on how to become better integrated in the tourism value chain in order to increase their income. They would also get know-how on developing sustainable business linkages with international tourism markets.
Under the second phase of the PSCEDP initiative, Lesotho would be able to support the tourism value chain development by being able to better quantify and track sector performance, improve standards strengthen the country’s unique offerings and support an enabling institutional framework.
Mr Mokuku added tourism statistics are set to be released before the end of the month to shed more light on the volatility of the sector.