Lesotho has recorded 800 000 tourist arrivals in 2019, an increase of 378 000 in less than 10 years and this is a mammoth success according to the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC).

“A positive growth was observed in international arrivals and exceeded the target of increasing international tourist arrivals from 422 000 to 800,000 by 2019,” said Mpaiphele Maqutu, chief executive officer of the parastatal mandated to market and promote Lesotho as a preferred destination  for tourists.

Speaking at a press conference in Maseru on Tuesday, Maqutu said Lesotho was able to register above average arrivals globally since 2011, adding that they recorded 3.1 percent growth in 2017.

He added that among the top source markets are South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany, The Netherlands and United States of America (USA).

He pointed out that not only are international travellers contributing to Lesotho’s tourism but “Basotho are proud of who they are and their country and they have warmed up to domestic tourism as they are visiting their own country.”

Maqutu remarked that Lesotho provides new and undiscovered destinations which is what most tourists are looking for. He indicated that because of its altitude, Lesotho is known as ‘Roof of Africa’ adding that the character further contributes to the promotion of tourism.

He indicated that the government of Lesotho has identified tourism as one of the sectors with a potential to diversify the economy and create employment.

Maqutu was quick to add that the country’s economy cannot rely on the textile industry alone.

He said as part of efforts towards the improvement of tourism, the government is working on the construction of some of the roads leading to tourists attraction places and “the move is aimed at ensuring that Lesotho is accessible.”

He said accessibility, safety and security as well as cleanliness are important components of tourism. He stressed that tourism is a competitive industry therefore Basotho should work hard to ace it.

In the meantime, as part of initiative to improve tourism in Lesotho, the LTDC is currently engaged in tourism product development initiatives through the improvement of ‘Maletsunyane Falls in Semonkong and Molimo Nthuse Lodge and the Pony Trekking facility.

Maqute said the construction of a visitor-comfort facility at the waterfall in Semonkong which started towards the end of last year is almost 60 percent complete, adding that the project is expected to be finalised by November.

He said when completed, the facility is expected to have an 80-seater restaurant with extended balcony for additional capacity of 28 seating allowance.

“There will also be an information centre, site museum depicting Semonkong history, curio shop and crafts market as well as an Internet cafe, horse stable, amphitheatre and a view deck and a picnic site with a control/pay point,” he explained.

He said as part of ensuring job creation and economic growth, the project was awarded to a Mosotho adding that construction work is done by people within Semonkong.

He added that in order to ensure that the Semonkong community has direct benefit from the project, raw materials used for construction are from Semonkong.

He said the corporation in February handed over the Molimo-Nthuse Lodge and Pony Trekking Facility to a local private operator with a view to revamp the facility which has been lying fallow for more than 10 years.

He said a 20-year lease agreement has already been signed with the operator.

He added that the construction and renovation works have started and it is expected that a restaurant will start operating in July, whilst the rest of the other facilities will be up by November.

He said in order to ensure community participation in tourism and sustainable development through tourism, the LTDC has also started sensitising the communities living around Semonkong and Molimo-Nthuse on possible business opportunities to tap in, in order to create jobs and for revenue generation.

As part of promoting tourism cross-border trade between Lesotho and South Africa, Tour Operators Association of Lesotho (TOAL) , Lesotho Hotels and Hospitality Association and the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) are hosting representatives from the South African Tourism-Durban and Gauteng until Sunday.

According to TOAL President Rethabile Morake the event is intended to create a platform for the Lesotho and South Africa tour operators to network and establish relations.

Morake said the relations and business connections to be made will help promote multiple destinations in tourism.

He said during their visit, their South African counterparts will be taken to some of the famous tourist attractions in the country starting at a historical place Thaba-Bosiu.

He appealed to Basotho to become ambassadors of tourism.

According to Maqutu, the event is intended to maximise tourism business between Lesotho and South Africa and establish long-term working relations and tour operation linkages between the two countries.

The aim he said is to also strengthen and expand the role of private sector as the prime driver of economic growth through tourism as well as engage in familiarisation tour around major tourism hot spots, in order to have a feel of the Lesotho’s tourism offering for onward development of cross-border tourism itineraries.

He emphasised that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries should work together to promote destination Southern Africa.

Additional reporting by Lena