IT is exactly 10 days before the Fifa Confederations Cup bursts into life in neighbouring South Africa.
Eight nations – hosts South Africa, Spain, Brazil, Egypt, the United States, Iraq, Italy and New Zealand – are scheduled to take part in the football festival.
The tournament will run from the 14th to the 28th of June and will take place in selected cities across South Africa.
The Confederations Cup is a prelude to next year’s World Cup tournament and will offer a glimpse into South Africa’s state of preparedness ahead of the real thing next year.
We are extremely concerned that with the Confederations Cup kicking off in 10 days’ time nothing much appears to have been done here in Lesotho to exploit the business opportunities associated with the football festival.
As we mentioned sometime last year we expect Lesotho, as South Africa’s closest neighbour, to reap huge financial benefits from the football extravaganza.
But we appear to have shot ourselves in the foot through our extremely shoddy preparations ahead of the World Cup next year.
We appear to have literally blown away the chance to boost the country’s revenue and position the country as a preferred destination of choice for football tourists.
Media reports this week said Lesotho had not been selected among the countries to officially provide accommodation for participating teams and fans coming to the football festival.
Only hosts South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius and Swaziland had been selected to provide the essential service.
Lesotho’s Tourism Development Corporation spokesman, Tsiu Shale, was quoted in the media as having been “a bit” disappointed by the development.
There is no time to feel sorry for ourselves.
We need to pick ourselves up so that we can gather the little crumbs falling from the high table across our borders.
We can still make amends.
What the Confederations Cup has done is to seriously expose our lack of preparedness for next year’s football jamboree.
As a country we need to make a brutally frank assessment about our own preparations. We can only improve when we allow ourselves to be subjected to such harsh but objective judgments.
We must hastily state that we have seen very little activity on the ground regarding the sprucing up of the country’s infrastructure ahead of the World Cup tournament.
Secondly, we have not seen any vigorous attempt by the Ministry of Tourism to market the country as a destination of choice to football lovers.
If there have been any attempts to do so, such attempts must have been woefully weak and inadequate.
Yes, the bulk of fans and teams will not camp here.
But there are vast opportunities available to market Lesotho as a tourist Mecca.
We need to put our house in order and ensure that we at least attract the hordes of supporters to stay in Lesotho or at least visit and spend the night here.
It would be unforgivable if we as a country fail to exploit the huge business opportunities associated with the World Cup next year. In fact, such failure would be tantamount to committing economic suicide.
We raise these issues in the wake of a recent presentation by an international consultancy company on the state of the hospitality and tourism sectors in Lesotho.
Grant Thornton Consultancy’s director, Lee Anne Bac, told a recent workshop in Maseru that Lesotho was lagging behind international tourism trends.
“(Tourism) operators in Lesotho should pay attention to the finer details to ensure that they meet required international standards,” Bac told the workshop.
Bac said Lesotho fell short of simple requirements such as signage, lighting, safety, cleanliness and having a conducive environment.
She said for a hotel to be regarded as a five-star establishment it must offer excellent service.
We all know that the assessment was spot on.
The challenge is to improve service and upgrade our hotels and accommodation facilities.
We know there is going to be a spill-over of tourists from the Free State.
We are pleased to see that already some of our major hotels in Maseru are undergoing some renovations.
It is time to roll our socks and get our hands on the plough.