The tourism ‘Mecca of Africa’

The tourism ‘Mecca of Africa’

MOKHOTLONG – EVERY winter hundreds of tourists from Europe and Asia flock into Lesotho to experience the country’s unique beauty.
Among the tourists’ magnet is AfriSki Resort in Mokhotlong. The snow-capped mountains of Lesotho continue to attract tourists who are awe-struck by their beauty.
Tour operators say while there has been a surge in tourist arrivals from Europe and Asia, locals remain reluctant to explore the beauty of their own country.
Some locals, stuck in their mythological past, still view snow as some kind of curse or disaster, they say.
But thankfully that perception is slowly changing.

Afri Hike, a group of South Africans who like to travel and explore Africa especially the SADC region, is among frequent guests at the facility.
The tourists told thepost they come and enjoy Afri Ski facilities every winter. “We came here years ago with a friend of ours before the facility was like this. Since then we have made it a point to spend at least one weekend here,” one member says.

“It is a beautiful facility, we enjoy it,” he says, adding that it is among places that they view as their African pride spots. “It is not expensive like people think it is or for the rich. All one needs to do is to save in time. We start saving as soon as we leave here so that we can come again the following year. It is not possible to take out the whole vacation cost at the same time.”
He adds that each year the group gets bigger, saying in 2015 there were 12 in their group while this year there are 24 of them.

A waiter at AfriSki who only identified himself as Luka said while black Africans rarely visit the site, there has been a marked improvement this year.
More Basotho are visiting the site, he said. “Lesotho has so many tourism attraction places but there is a lack of art crafts production for income generation. Instead tourists come with their different arts to sell to Basotho,” Luka says.

Peter Michigan, one of the tourists, said he came from Johannesburg but he is working in Bolivia. “I came to Lesotho specifically for the AfriSki activities. Even in Bolivia Lesotho is known for its beautiful mountains, terrains and rivers. ‘‘Many people are interested in Lesotho and Basotho should venture into the tourism business,” he said.
The Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) has embarked on a campaign to promote domestic tourism.

“We have different initiatives that we are doing targeting, different audiences. We want Basotho to appreciate the beauty of their country,” Molapo Matela, a Senior Tourism Officer, says.
Matela says the corporation is working hard to instil the culture of tourism in the nation as they have realised the potential of tourism.
He says tourism can improve the lives of Basotho.

“We have a lot of beautiful places in the country that a lot of Basotho do not know or have deemed as “white people’s” places.
“It is high time our people do not view snow as a disaster but they should view it as an opportunity to have something so beautiful as most countries are not as privileged as we are,” Matela says.
He says although there are challenges in this journey they are satisfied with their progress.

“Previously the LTDC was the one that paid for companies to visit our tourist attractions but currently they are paying for their own tours,” Matela says.
“This means that they are starting to appreciate not only tourism but the effects tourism has on them such as team building.”
He says a number of Basotho have been visiting their offices asking for information concerning travel arrangements to certain places.

“That we have Basotho grouping themselves and instead of going to Durban visiting local attraction places says that we are going somewhere.”
He said one of their biggest challenges is “that our people, including police officers, ask tourists for money whenever they see them”.
“We are working hard with the police to eradicate this habit and it is our plea to our people to stop doing that,” he says.

“Let us not abuse tourists. There are people who depend solely on tourism to make livelihoods.” He pleaded with the nation at large to stop littering everywhere.
“Let us keep our country clean and avoid littering everywhere.” He added that the LTDC is working on building a tourism satellite that will enable them to measure the contribution of tourism to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

Senate Sekotlo

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