THE chief executive officer of the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC), Mpaiphele Maqutu, says the country needs to strengthen its ties with neighbouring countries to improve its tourism potential.
Mr Maqatu says that being close to South Africa, which has superior tourism marketing muscle, Lesotho can benefit by tapping into the tourists visiting South Africa so that they can also visit the country before returning to their countries.
“We have to collaborate if we really want our tourism to change the lives of our people,” Mr Maqutu said in a recent interview.
He said southern African countries need to collaborate in marketing their tourism attractions in such a way that tourists no longer consider visiting one country but the region as a single tourist destination.
He said the contracting beach attractions in South Africa and skiing attractions in neigbouring Lesotho offer tourists unique experiences within a the space of four hours.
“For instance, the beach to snow concept within the space of four hours is a thrilling opportunity that has the potential to market both Lesotho and South Africa tremendously,” Mr Maqutu said.
Meanwhile, as part of these collaborative efforts, the Tourism Operators Association of Lesotho (TOAL) recently hosted its Kwazulu Natal counterparts and Durban and Gauteng South African Tourism office representatives to forge business links for cross border tourism.
The exercise, which was done in collaboration with the LTDC and the Lesotho Hotels and Hospitality Association (LHHA) took place from 5 to 9 June this year.
According to president of TOAL, Rethabile Morake, who is also owner of tour operating company Leseli Tours, they discussed ways in which the two countries can work together for mutual benefit.
He said there is lack of harmonised cross border tourism trade between the two countries’ service operators.
“We are blessed with a very rich country in terms of tourism. We are therefore a very rich country and we are determined as tour operators on the ground to ensure that we jealously guard this treasure we are blessed with.
“We are therefore going to collaborate with South African tour operators as we have guests from Kwazulu Natal with the intention of exchanging information,” Mr Morake said.
He said they are hoping to take advantage of the tourists destined for South Africa to also visit Lesotho.
“When the tourists visit South Africa from all over the world, they should also be able to cross into Lesotho and sleep over and not just bring packed lunches to go back to sleep in South Africa.
“We are going to sensitise the South African tour operators that there are more tourist attractions in Lesotho than just Sani Top, which we can collaborate with them for guidance.
“We also want to work with them for Lesotho people who may want to tour South Africa so that we can take them to a variety of places in that country,” Mr Morake said.
He said South African visitors would among other places, tour Thaba Bosiu, which has the history of the foundation of the Basotho nation, Semonkong, which has Maletsunyane Falls and the Afriski Resort in Butha-Buthe.
One of the KZN tour operators who were in Lesotho, Lindiwe Mkhize, said she was glad that they were finally forging working relations with Lesotho service providers as she has clients who want to explore the Mountain Kingdom. Ms Mkhize is the operations director tour operator Igwat Enterprises.
“It has always been my dream to come to Lesotho because I have had people who wanted to visit Lesotho but it was not easy for me to bring them all on my own. But now it will be possible through working together with Lesotho tour operators.
“From today, we will exchange business contacts and work together with Lesotho based tour operators to relay tourists,” Ms Mkhize said in a recent interview with the Business Journal.
Asked how she would rate Lesotho’s tourism potential, Ms Mkhize said she believes Lesotho has a lot to offer any tourist.
“From the presentation that was done by Mr Morake demonstrating all the activities they have in Lesotho, I hope to bring my clients to the country to enjoy what Lesotho has to offer.
For his part, LTDC’s head of strategic marketing, Tebello Thoola, explained that the forging of working relations by the two country’s tour operators is part of implementing bilateral agreements that have been signed between Lesotho and South Africa for mutual benefit in tourism development such as the Maloti- Drakensburg Heritage Route.
The Maloti-Drakensberg Heritage Route is a joint eco-tourism initiative between South Africa and the Lesotho. The route covers about 13 000km2 of breathtaking mountain vistas along Lesotho’s north-eastern border with South Africa.