Mountain tourism in Lesotho

Mountain tourism in Lesotho

Phomolo Senoko and Motlatsi Motaketsane

The sheer volume and complexity of the offer of tourist services have led to the development of travel and tourism industries.
Because of this, tourism should be regarded as a separate branch of the economy and as other branches, this branch of the economy is closely linked with the development levels and growth of the economy.

Tourism, in the economic context of the 21st century, is an essential activity in the structure of the economic mechanism and has an active role in the development and modernisation of the economy and society.
The importance and the economic contribution of this activity fluctuates from nation to nation.

Although there are countries whose economy relies largely on tourism, its role is so well integrated in contemporary economies that the economic impact is relevant even to the less important countries in terms of tourism related activities.
Tourism has become an important sector that has an impact on development of the economy.
The main benefits of tourism are income creation and generation of jobs.
Domestically, Lesotho should be acknowledged for its initiatives to boost the tourism industry in many aspects.

Amongst others, the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) stated that the country is getting into a high gear in a drive to attract more tourists in the country; the aim is to improve facilities, boost the contribution that the tourists make to the national economy and widen job creation platform within the tourism and associated business sectors.
In 2015, tourism contributed 2.5 percent of Lesotho’s gross domestic product (which is a measure of national economic activity).
However this contribution is relatively low compared to other countries, given landscape comparative advantage that Lesotho has.

For instance, in Australia, where tourism contributes more than 4 percent of economic activities during the same period of time, more than 75 percent of the total sales in tourism is generated by the Alpine tourism industry which is very well developed.
At this juncture therefore, the key questions are whether Lesotho is performing to its greatest potential in this phenomenon?

Is there a possibility for Lesotho to unlock its utmost potential that will make economic miseries history within Lesotho in the phenomenon of tourism?
What is the greatest asset possessed by Lesotho in the phenomenon of tourism?
Could a Bible verse — “the Almighty LORD blesses you (Lesotho) with blessings of deep waters from beneath, the blessings of ancient mountains, and delightful things from everlasting hills” (Genesis, 49) hold the key to Lesotho’s utmost tourism development?
We find it in every paper that talks about Lesotho, be it an academic paper, policy paper or a journal article, they always start with these words; “Lesotho is a mountainous country with two-thirds of the land covered by mountains, and a tiny economy bounded entirely by a giant country — South Africa . . .!”
South Africa, with a population of 54 million people (almost 27 times the population of Lesotho) is potentially an easy target if a mountainous country could invest in Mountain Development Strategic Plans.

Lesotho’s mountains are already attractive natural as they are, but heartfelt-commitment to their development, could generate enormous income for Lesotho.
South Africa, for instance has committed to develop the Table Mountain in Cape Town and is one of the major tourist attraction centres in the world.

The only reason for this is because the Table Mountain has been adequately developed to serve such purpose hence the reason why an economic unit will feel the need to leave their countries all over the world just to be on Table Mountain.
Now we ask ourselves, how many “Precious Table Mountains” could a mountainous country have if such mountains could be developed?

Doesn’t it make sense for the “mountainous country” to be on the forefront when issues pertaining to mountain development are discussed?
Unlike in developing countries, mountains in developed countries (particularly in the Western Europe) are destinations for mass tourism, in which high volume and high output are the norm.

Tourism in the European Alps is becoming increasingly restricted and regulated, with strict regulations and control of quality of services and facilities, and environmental measures, which is not the case in Lesotho where mountain tourism has been characterized by unregulated, uncontrolled and haphazard development.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that Lesotho cannot rely only on its current sources of income particularly water and diamonds as these sources are not just depleting, but also that Lesotho has the minimum share in them.

Thus, policy-makers should shift their focus to mountain development strategies that will include intensive prolonged training of locals on uncompromised mountain development that will stimulate an inevitable quest for nations to tour Lesotho mountains, with strict rules regulating mountain tourism in Lesotho, leaving a mark of the highest class on this phenomenon across the entire globe.

l Phomolo Senoko and Motlatsi Motaketsane are third year Economics students at the National University of Lesotho.

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