THE new M22, 6 million reconstruction project of the Maseru Tourist Information and Crafts Centre (MTICC) is nearing completion, the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture has said.
The construction works commenced in April 2019, eight years after the original facility was razed by fire in 2011.
Located in the heart of Maseru central business district, the centre is meant to catalyse the sector’s potential and ultimately boost Lesotho’s economic development with special focus on the arts and crafts industry.
In the ongoing National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II), the government has identified tourism and creative industries among its priority sectors towards driving the country’s economic development.
Featuring the conical shape of the iconic mokorotlo hat design, which is a symbol of the Basotho culture, the centre will house a digitised marketing platform, an amphitheatre and an arts and crafts gallery. It will also have a production workshop, archives, a restaurant, a coffee shop and small retail outlets.
The director of tourism in the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, ‘Mabolaoane Selinyane, said tourism information in Maseru has been scattered around different places since 2011.
She said the centre was being constructed through the financial assistance of the World Bank under the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP).
PSCEDP is a government project under the Ministry of Trade and Industry with funding from the World Bank. The project’s mandate is to facilitate private sector investment in by improving the business environment and diversifying the economy’s growth sources.
“The Maseru Tourist Information and Crafts Centre responds to the lack of a comprehensive hub where tourists can obtain important tourism information about the country in Maseru,” Ms Selinyane said.
“After the original facility was burnt down in 2011 leaving the country without a central tourism information base. This displaced arts and crafts vendors, several of whom are now displaying their products on sidewalks with no access to storage facilities.
“The centre will also provide a proper crafts market in the city…”
In addition, she said the centre would have a production workshop for the crafters to work from and a space for training facilities.
She said the development of a competitive arts and crafts industry in Lesotho would contribute to job creation. This will strengthen the tourism value chain through training of craftsmen to produce pieces that are attractive to their markets.
“The centre will play a significant role in alleviating poverty through job creation and economic development…
“The amphitheater will provide a planform for developing our budding film and theatre industry. So, the centre will provide growth opportunities for the film and theatre industry thereby increasing job creation opportunities.”
The facility will be leased out to a private operator who will pay rentals to the government.
Refiloe Ramone, the construction project coordinator from the Ministry of Tourism, said construction of the two-flour building was 90 percent complete. He said they had hoped to have finished the project but the works were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.