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Charm offensive to save tourism




Motsamai Mokotjo


Assaulting and insulting tourists and general harassment of the visitors mostly by schoolchildren are damaging the country’s tourism industry which is one of Lesotho’s main sources of revenue.

On 28 April this year, a Ha Makoko youth smashed the windscreen of a tourist’s vehicle, and the visitor reported the incident to the Sani Mountain Lodge manager in Mokhotlong, who in turn informed Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) authorities.

And in an effort to ensure communities embrace tourists and appreciate the economic benefits they bring to the country, LTDC officials visited Makoko and Linaka Primary schools in Thaba-Tseka on Wednesday and engaged the students about this menace which has increasingly become widespread and now threatens one of Lesotho’s major sources of revenue.

Tasked with promoting Lesotho as a destination of choice for the adventure tourist through strategic marketing and sustainable product and industry development in partnership with the private sector and local communities, the LTDC has seen it fit to embark on a countrywide programme aimed at sensitizing residents about the need to be courteous to the visitors, hence Wednesday’s visit.

Addressing the approximately 250 students from the two schools, LTDC Public Relations Manager, ‘Manchafalo Motšoeneng, reiterated the importance of tourists to Lesotho, and why they should not be harassed but welcomed and made to feel at home.

Ms Motšoeneng said: “When I am here, I am a tourist, your visitor. Why do you assault tourists and smash their car-windows? Why do you ask for sweets from them?

“Tourists bring money into Lesotho, thereby helping the country’s economy to grow. I urge your parents to open homestays where they could accommodate the tourists, and earn money through this way.

“The tourists give local communities and the country at large, the opportunity to grow economically.”

Ms Motšoeneng also told the learners to inform their parents to rent out their horses to the visitors, and then charge for the service.

“In addition to all these avenues of making money, the tourists will also buy goods from local communities, while they would most likely also give something in return in gratitude.”

Mokhotlong Police Public Affairs Officer, Sub-Inspector Thooko Letsie who also spoke at the gathering, warned the children that harassing the tourists was criminal.

“We are bound by the law to curb crime, and my advice to you is to desist from such acts because smashing the window of somebody’s car is a crime.

“The Lesotho Mounted Police Service and LTDC want Lesotho to be a peaceful country because that is how tourists see us and how the country is viewed by the world,” Sub-Inspector Letsie said.

“People who commit crime against anyone should know that we’ll deal with them. You should know that once you are arrested, your fingerprints are taken and stored in a database for future reference.

“And once you have this record, you might find it difficult to find a job when you grow up because companies would not want to be involved with someone of such a character; with a criminal record.

“In fact, most companies have a policy that they will not employ anyone with a criminal record, which is why we are emphasising to you that you should not be attacking visitors who are helping to develop our country.”

One of the students from Ha Makoko, Seikabi Maele (12) told the Sunday Express that the LTDC visit had been an eye-opener.

Maele said: “We have a learnt a lot from this visit and how tourists help us in so many ways.

“They bring money into the country and we promise to change our behaviour towards them from no onwards.

“We will also make sure we inform our colleagues who are not here today about the importance of tourism to Lesotho, and most of all, why we should be courteous to them each time they visit our area.”

Meanwhile, Ms Motšoeneng said the LTDC would continue with its sensitisation programme and make sure every member of society appreciates the value of tourists and also the business opportunities they offer locals in return.





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