Poor product development and inadequate financial investment are hampering the growth of Lesotho’s tourism sector, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro has said.
He said this while addressing a recent webinar on reviving Lesotho’s tourism and hospitality sector after the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The webinar was organised by the government in partnership with the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
The seminar deliberated on the challenges, opportunities and priority reforms needed to revive and revitalise Lesotho’s tourism and hospitality sector.
Addressing delegates during the webinar, Majoro said Lesotho lacked the necessary resources to package its natural attributes into tourism products that can pull visitors. As a result of lack of expertise, the sector is underperforming and remains largely untapped, despite it being one of the priority sectors identified as key economic drivers in the second National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II).
“Our tourism has the potential that everybody says it has but it is also lagging behind in terms of its national output,” said Majoro.
“It is a figment of imagination; an asset kept secret and enjoyed by a few. It is one area which everybody says we have potential in but have not explored.”
According to the 2019 National Tourism Master Plan, the tourism sector contributes about 1, 5 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Majoro said poor product development is one of the sector’s major challenges.
He said Lesotho’s tourist attraction sites are poorly developed with inadequate recreational activities to keep visitors intrigued for longer.
“Product development in the tourism sector has been our problem for a long time. Our tourism sites are spectacular but are not animated sufficiently to make people want to immerse themselves into their experience and wanting to come back.”
According to the data from the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LDTC), Lesotho’s tourist arrivals were 1, 2 million and 1, 14 million in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Most visitors came from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany, Netherlands and the United States of America.
Majoro said while there was a rising interest in tourism entrepreneurship, there remained a shortage of financial investment into the sector to develop sought-after tourism products.
“With all God’s creations we are blessed with, we still must package these sites for international visitors’ appeal.
“There has been inadequate expertise and inadequate financial capital in the sector, and I hope with this session, we laid the foundation for our local investors to begin to address these challenges by partnering with international investors.
“I hope this webinar will begin to inject a seed among local and international investors to come together to develop this otherwise untapped tourism potential in Lesotho,” Majoro said.
For his part, Tourism, Environment and Culture ministers Lekhetho Rakuoane said new innovations were needed to develop the sector given Covid-19-induced challenges.
“Even though the Covid-19 pandemic has brought undesirable circumstances, we were forced to adopt transformational approaches to developing the tourism industry. You will agree with me therefore, that many new innovative and quick impact interventions will emerge.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that we must do things differently to ensure a stable and growing industry through using modern technology to promote and market Lesotho as a destination for tourism travel and investment. From here the key policy priorities for the government to pursue would include:
- Restoring traveller confidence and supporting safe return of international tourists
- Supporting tourism businesses to adapt to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic
- Promoting domestic tourism
- Skills capacity building of the tourism players
- Strengthening co-operation within and between countries
- Building a more resilient, sustainable tourism
“Countries that have succeeded in building a robust tourism and hospitality industry have established a strong foundation comprising; tourism business linkages, public private partnerships, strong community participation and coordinated tourism development initiatives,” Rakuoane said.