THE Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) and other stakeholders in the tourism sector have denounced the harassment of a foreign rider in the just-ended Roof of Africa race by some villagers in Ha ?Matholoana, Berea.
The video of the biker being harassed by some villagers who were demanding money from him, went viral on social media a fortnight ago. This prompted the LTDC, the police and the Lesotho Off Road Association (LORA) to organise a public gathering in Ha ?Matholoana to sensitise community on the importance of tourism as it brought immeasurable benefits to the communities and the nation in general through job creation and revenue earnings.
Hence the importance of hospitality and good behaviour which would go a long way in promoting the country as a destination of choice, LTDC Public Relations Officer, Molapo Matela said at the gathering. He called on villagers to be hospitable and desist from harassing visitors as this made them feel unwelcome. Unbecoming behaviour would ultimately result in tourists shunning Lesotho, he said.
“Safety and security play an integral role in the tourism industry,” Mr Matela said.
“Safety is a determining factor which influences tourists to either travel to or shun a particular destination. The unbecoming behaviour and harassment of tourists by some members of the community dent the image of Lesotho as a preferred destination for tourism. I appeal to you to be hospitable to visitors because the Kingdom of Lesotho is well-known for being a peaceful and tranquil country for travelers who want to unwind from the clatters of the city life,” Mr Matela said.
Speaking at the same gathering, LORA executive member, James De- Jesus, said they were the organisers of the Roof of Africa Rally, an annual motorbike tournament which attracted scores of international riders from South Africa and beyond.
“The event began in 1967 and attracts professional riders from South Africa, other SADC countries and all over the globe. It is an internationally renowned event.
“The hospitality of the citizens translates into improved livelihoods through the creation of direct and indirect jobs. Lots of revenue is generated by holding the event. But if the host nation is unwelcoming to riders and visitors, there is a high possibility that we will lose the benefits of hosting this prestigious event,” Mr De- Jesus said.
Sergeant Khethang Thamae of the Sefikeng Police said the Ha ?Matholoana area boasted a “captivating panorama which lures tourists to visit, view and take pictures”.
“All that is needed is for locals to be hospitable and protect tourists visiting the area so that they can leave behind financial benefits for the community”, Sergeant Thamae said.
Fellow police officer, Inspector Tumo Makhatseane, said the harassment of tourists not only tainted the image of Matholoana but of Lesotho as a whole.
“Lesotho is a member state of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and any misbehaviour against tourists discourages tourism in Lesotho.
“In an endeavor to curb criminal activities, the Sefikeng police have assisted in the formation and training of a community policing committee to work collaboratively with the police. Investigations will be conducted so that the perpetrators who harassed the rider can be brought to book. The police can also be contacted on the toll-free number 112 in case of emergencies,” Inspector Makhatseane said.