Lesotho, has announced that the country is to go into high gear in a drive to attract more tourists to the country. At the heart of their goals will be efforts to improve facilities, boost the contribution that tourism makes to the national economy and increase job creation within the tourism and associated business sectors.
With 2.5% of the national GDP derived from tourism, there is massive potential for the country to grow the contribution of tourism to the economy and make Lesotho a ‘go to’ destination, says Mr Mpaiphele Dyson Maqutu, the CEO of Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC).
Tourism has the potential to increase employment opportunities for Basotho’s. After mining and textile manufacturing, tourism is the next highest employment generator in the country.
“It was the realisation that there were real, untapped opportunities for job creation and even infrastructural growth that could be driven by tourism, which galvanised government. The challenge is to develop a sector which presently derives 15% of its income from the sales of food, beverages and 63% from the provision of accommodation,” says Mr Maqutu.
It is in the accommodation sector-spread over a range of hotels, guest houses and B&B’s that LTDC has begun focusing its efforts to formalise tourism offerings and make them more appealing to tourists.
“We have developed and are implementing a star grading system that will bring uniformity and upgrade the quality of accommodation establishments. This will ensure that international tourists can visit the country secure in the knowledge that they can expect quality, graded accommodation that continues to meet international standards”.
“Although registration is presently being conducted on a voluntary basis, those taking part in the programme have already indicated that they are seeing an increase in ‘bed nights’ following registration. The final objective is to fully regulate accommodation and the grading system. However, we expect the passion of those who are seeing the results to drive increased voluntary adoption of the standards”.
“The most encouraging statistic that will assist the grading process and other plans is the fact that 85% of people already in the industry participate on a full-time basis. Of those working full time in the sector, about 97% are local and most are between the ages of 18 and 40 – an encouraging statistic, as this is the most vital employment period in most people’s lives. So, there is not only room for growth, but also the promise of a sustainable way of earning an income for those wishing to work in the industry.”
Mr Maqutu also added that “Training is of vital concern and is top of the agenda as it will be vital in ensuring the overall quality of the tourist experience. Some of the people presently engaged in tourism are in the sector by default, because they have facilities available. We need to engender a passion for the industry within these people-training is obviously the key.”
The initial focus for LTDC will be to persuade the 1 000 000 South Africans who presently visit Lesotho for business or pleasure every year to extend their stay and take advantage of Lesotho’s many attractions. Key international markets such as Germany, Netherlands will continue to be addressed aggressively through direct promotions, efforts that have reaped results in the past. LTDC will also continue to target other regions in Africa and Internationally.
This article was written by TIDIMALO SHABALALA