Schoolchildren now threaten Lesotho’s money-spinning tourism industry and the authorities have decided to put a stop to this menace
The Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) on Wednesday embarked on a campaign aimed at preserving the country’s status as the ultimate tourist destination following social media reports that schoolchildren were harassing and even attacking the visitors.
The corporation’s officials on Wednesday visited primary schools along the Ha-Katse to Thaba-Tseka route and addressed students on the need to be friendly to tourists, and never to bother the visitors by begging for goodies and cash, and attacking those who fail to comply.
According to LTDC Public Relations Officer, Molapo Matela, there had been numerous complaints from tourists, who alleged they had been harassed by youngsters during their visits to Lesotho, hence Wednesday’s visit to Khomo-Li-ileng, Sekhohola, Nkokana and Khohlo- Ntso primary schools to talk about the issue and put an end to what has increasingly become cause for concern to the corporation whose duty is to sell the kingdom as a paradise due to its unique culture and topography.
Mr Matela added the aggrieved holidaymakers were also spreading news of the harassment through social media, which he said could prove disastrous for the country’s tourism industry in the long term as Lesotho would then be considered unsafe for holidaymakers.
According to Mr Matela, the World Travel and Tourism Council had estimated that in 2013, tourism contributed 5,5 percent to Lesotho’s Gross Domestic Product, which is the total monetary value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period, hence the LTDC’s mission to save this critical industry.
“The tourists have reported to us, the LTDC, that schoolchildren beg for money and sweets from them and when they don’t comply, they stone their vehicles,” Mr Matela said.
“This was a very disturbing development to us as a corporation, since our duty is to sell the country as a prime tourist destination to the world.
“But how do you go out there and tell the international community that your country is safe when such reports of violence are all over social media? That’s why we are here today to encourage these youngsters not to behave that way and hopefully, the message is going to get across because it’s really embarrassing to tell prospective tourists that Lesotho is a very peaceful country, only for them to find otherwise when they come here. Obviously when they go back to their respective countries, they will talk about such incidents of intimidation and this country will suffer.”
In response, Khomo-Li-leng Primary School Deputy Principal, ‘Mamokholitsoane Ngate, said she was aware of the problem, adding however, that the harassment came as a disappointment since tourism was one of the subjects taught at the institution.
“We teach the students about these things and how to treat the tourists, but they don’t listen. On several occasions, I have seen some of them running after the tourists’ vehicles when they pass by the school, asking for all sorts of things from the visitors.
“We talk to the students about this and order them to stop the practice, but they simply don’t listen, maybe because they have become too familiar with us since we are their teachers. Hopefully, this visit by LTDC officials will put a stop to this embarrassment,” Ms Ngate said.
However, Sekhohola Primary School Deputy Principal, ‘Mamorapeli Lenong, said the tourists were partly to blame for the children’s unruly behaviour.
“Some of these tourists have instilled this begging culture into the students. They throw sweets and money at them as they drive around these parts, and the youngsters have come to expect such behaviour from every tourist. And if any of the tourists pass by and don’t give them anything, the children become angry and start attacking them.
“I am not condoning the youngsters’ terrible behaviour at all, but simply highlighting some of the issues that I believe could be contributing to the problem.
“The tourists should also be discouraged from inciting this behaviour among the children, and only then, can we be able to eradicate this challenge.”
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