Tourism plots way back

Tourism plots way back

MASERU-IT is a tiny virus that has left Lesotho’s tourism sector in ruins.
The Moshoeshoe I International Airport in Maseru has been reduced to a shell, with no air traffic coming into Lesotho.
The country’s borders have been tightly shut since March.
That lockdown has meant no single tourist has been able to visit the country since March.

Basotho themselves have been too traumatised by the Covid-19 pandemic. The result is that they are too afraid to visit the many numerous and famed tourist attractions around the country.

Without tourists, businesses in the hospitality sector have had to shed thousands of jobs. The carnage on the jobs market has been unprecedented.
That, in a nutshell, has been the story of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Players in the tourism sector are however not taking the new challenge lying down.

Speaking at a Tourism Month celebration at Maseru Mall last Friday, Lesotho Hotels and Hospitality Association chairperson, ’Marethabile Sekhiba, admitted that business has been very tough.
She said the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in the industry.

“We struggled to pay salaries, the upkeep of the facilities, we have been in a dark place,” Sekhiba said.
“However, it is time to pick ourselves up, Covid-19 is here and we must learn to live with it.”

With the easing of the lockdown and the proposed opening of borders on October 1, Sekhiba said they are hopeful that things will change for the better.
“We are aware that people do not have money, aware that even when the borders open getting tourists might still be a challenge hence we are encouraging Basotho to explore their country,” she said.

The idea behind the gathering was to reiterate that people can still work and enjoy life despite the pandemic as long as they follow the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
The precautions include social distancing, wearing face masks that cover the nose and mouth, and the frequent washing of hands with soap and running water or sanitizing hands.

’Maboloaoana Selinyane, who is the Director of Tourism, said the Covid-19 pandemic has altered the ways of doing business and therefore it is only pertinent that the industry also adjusts accordingly.
“We have seen how being technologically savvy is now a need, we also need to stand up as an industry and use technology for our benefit,” Selinyane said.

Covid-19, she said, has taught them that the industry has to do more to diversify their offerings to appeal to locals as the industry can no longer rely on international tourists alone.
The Minister of Tourism, Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, said cleanliness plays a huge role for the industry. He said Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro led the cleaning campaign to celebrate tourism month.

Earlier this month public servants, the army and the police went from street to street, corner to corner while celebrating tourism month.
Advocate Rakuoane said the impact of Covid-19 on tourism industry had negatively impacted other industries such as agriculture and transport.
“Business is integrated and with this pandemic we have seen just how urgently we need new strategies to grow the industry,” Advocate Rakuoane said.

He added that even the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) II emphasises the significance of the tourism industry in growing the economy.

The tourism industry in Lesotho offers a variety of activities like skiing, abseiling, hiking, pony trekking, mountain biking and camping.
Tourists have an option to choose to stay in village-based establishments to enjoy and experience Basotho culture or stay in guesthouses, lodges or hotels.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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