The Tourism Industry Of Lesotho Tourism Essay

5055 words (20 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Tourism Reference this

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In the essay the researcher was able to come up with the current status of the industry, that is, what the marketing body and the government are doing to promote tourism. Moreover, the study includes the country’s Strategic Analysis in a pursuit to shed light on the opportunities that are open for Lesotho’s tourism.

From there the investigation entails what other countries’ marketing mix especially Promotion involves and the researcher is not only based on fellow Developing countries but also other Developed countries.

The investigation also looks at the unexploited markets of Lesotho which can be a major boost to both the industry and the country’s economy at large. These unexploited markets are based on the Product portfolio of the country which has not yet been natured or in some cases, the products that are not being promoted well enough or at all.

In the conclusion there are recommendations on what the tourism stakeholders should do to ensure that the country’s tourism industry performs at its optimum level.

Lesotho’s tourism industry is currently ranked 180 out of 181 economies in relative contribution to national economies and 150 in absolute size worldwide by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and personally as a Mosotho this is appalling indeed considering the fact that fellow Southern African countries like Swaziland and South Africa are ranked 167 and 101 in relative contribution to national economies respectively, but on the brighter side, Lesotho is ranked 50th in 10-year growth which shows that it has a high potential of growing.

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Therefore the core aim of this essay will be how Lesotho’s tourism industry can be improved both in the long-run and short term. I will examine the Product, Promotion and Place mostly as it will be difficult to get the consumers view about the Pricing. Moreover I will use different Analytical tools as aids in this essay.

What made the researcher, me, choose this topic is the fact that I was born and bred in Lesotho and I have a close relative actively engaged in the country’s tourism industry and the above mentioned reasons have evoked my interest in tourism as a whole and has lead to this keen interest of looking into possible ways of improving this unique product better known as the “Kingdom in the Sky”, hence the topic: “CAN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY OF LESOTHO BECOME A MAJOR CONTRIBUTOR TO LESOTHO’S ECONOMY?”

What Lesotho is doing

The country’s tourism industry is primarily marketed by a parastatal, the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) which is a government initiative.

I find it fitting to firstly establish the current state of the country’s tourism industry so that I can move on to raising applicable recommendations. To establish this I interviewed a Marketing personnel at the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation at the Maseru Information Centre, who emphasized that they as the tourism body are in charge of promoting the country’s tourism and currently they do so by attending regional and international exhibitions such as the well-known Indaba which is Africa’s top travel show held annually in Durban and the ITB Berlin Convention which is the highly respected and decorated travel conference in the world; they attend these exhibitions in order to bring to the attention of international tour operators that Lesotho is the home of adventure tourism so that they include the “Kingdom in the Sky” in the around Africa or around the world tour packages they offer to their clients which mostly are “big spenders”.

The mammoth challenge is that the international market did not know that Lesotho exists therefore firstly the LTDC had to overcome this challenge which they have made commendable progress with their informative campaign by attending these kind of aforementioned exhibitions and others annually so that the industry takes them seriously and does not forget about them by seeing them frequently taking an active role and setting up award winning stands ( Lesotho’s stand was dubbed the best stand at the 2008 Indaba and at the 2010 ITB the LTDC’s stand was amongst the top 10 best stands at the exhibition)

Apart from the annual exhibitions, the LTDC hosts a monthly expo called the Maseru Bazaar at the Maseru Tourist Information Office which showcases local handicraft, traditional dances and local artists of all genres. Furthermore, stalls are put up for all interested individuals in the tourism industry to show their products to the public and visiting tourists who often make their first stop here when they enter the country. The core aim of this expo is to market domestic tourism, that is, to encourage the people of Lesotho to tour their home country, they call this campaign “Know your country first”.

Their campaigns are focused on adventure tourism more than anything because of the country’s rugged terrain and its mountainous geography, therefore most of their budget is apportioned to selling this type of tourism to their regional counterparts and the international market at large.

The LTDC has recently developed a travelers’ website [1] which provides information about where to stay, what to do and a list of upcoming events to mention just a few.

One key aspect in the business industry is the product, this is also the LTDC’s priority to make sure that what they are selling to the regional and international markets is of highest possible quality. They do this by encouraging people to keep the country clean although in this department they are not doing that much as expected.

There has to be a reason why the LTDC is performing the way they are currently, not being at their best. Like many other African countries would say, and has become their “anthem”, the main reason is funding, the government is not injecting sufficient money into the country’s tourism industry to allow the LTDC to function at their optimum best. For the 2010/2011 Financial year, the government apportioned M 53.2 million compared to M 69.7 million [2] for the previous financial year for the Ministry of Tourism Environment and Culture. This is a serious problem which may be caused by the cultural background of Africans because they do not believe in touring themselves but they put effort and money in agriculture which recently is failing them.

The private sector is the one which is doing their level best to try and market the Kingdom in the Sky so that they as individual companies can survive, they have gone to the level of setting up an independent body called Lesotho Council for Tourism (LCT) which includes every business related to tourism, tour operators, accommodation establishments, catering services and others. The core aim of this body is to provide tourism training programmes, support for tourism development and assistance to the tourism private sector to maintain high quality tourism products [3] . It aims to achieve these by encouraging local and international investments in the industry and by offering its members access to membership international tourism bodies (Regional Tourism Organization for Southern Africa, South African Tourism Association).

Strategic Analysis

But what are the strengths and weaknesses of Lesotho’s tourism industry? To answer these questions and others I will use the SWOT analysis.

Strengths

Product

Lesotho is home to numerous unique landmarks which can only be offered by Lesotho and Lesotho only:

The highest pub in Africa which is the Sani Top Chalet

The longest single drop waterfall in Southern Africa

The highest lowest point in altitude in the world

The highest peak in Southern Africa, Thabana Ntlenyana

Letšeng Diamond Mine which is the highest (altitude) mine in the world

Apart from those unique landmarks Lesotho has the following:

Undulating landscape (magnificent and widely accepted)

Friendly and hospitable people

What Basotho call the Engineering Project of the decade which is the Katse Dam, consists of a 185m tall double-curvature arch wall, and other Lesotho Highlands Water Project dams

National Parks and Game Reserves

Rock art which comprises of foreshortening [4] and therianthropes [5] 

Workforce

The industry has several passionate people engaged in different sectors of the tourism industry, tour operators, information office personnel, hospitable hotel staff and others.

Weaknesses

Product

There are various disturbing factors about the product that Lesotho is selling; the defects include:

Several places of interest like rock paintings have been vandalized by untrained care-takers and villagers some thinking they are preserving the works of art; as did one care-taker of the Bushmen paintings’ site who poured water on the paintings thinking they will be more visible only to find out that he was destroying the artifacts.

Maseru as the capital city of Lesotho cannot accommodate more than one thousand tourists. On the contrary, even if more establishments were set up, most of the time the rooms would not be occupied because this came to the attention of a tour operator when he had to organize a tour for a group of 1000 guests.

Tour operators do not have big vehicles to handle large groups which forces them to hire local coaches which most of them are not satisfactory because they travel day-in day-out as taxis therefore they are not looked after that well.

Workforce

Customs’ staff at the various ports of entry does not treat visitors well at all, they do not have customer care training. Numerous tourists have complained about this at the Tourist Information Office in Maseru.

Accommodation receptionists at several establishments in the outskirts of Maseru also have a problem of having not undergone a customer care course. This is a serious problem because one tour operator told me his anecdote of when he was at a hotel in Mafeteng where he waited for about half an hour for a receptionist to appear and when she appeared she did not even greet him nor apologized for being late, she arrogantly asked them what he wanted. This is appalling and is slowly driving people away from the Kingdom in the Sky.

Opportunities

The world is dominated by high-tech machinery and technological advances which cause stress to its users and this has lead to people wanting to tour original and ethnic countries away from their daily busy urban life and Lesotho is one of them, therefore the market for cultural and eco-tourism is fast growing and Lesotho should fight for its share in this market.

Lesotho is investor friendly and for that reason foreign investors could be approached so that they build accommodation settlements and other facilities to improve what the country offers the world and they themselves will be moved to promote the country for their investments sake.

South Africa’s accommodation rates have risen sharply because of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and these prices are chasing tourists away now that tournament is over while Lesotho’s accommodation rates have not changed significantly meaning more people would choose Lesotho over South Africa.

Threats

Lesotho is totally landlocked by South Africa; therefore healthy diplomatic relations between the two countries are of utmost importance because South Africa is the only road gateway into and out of Lesotho. This is not only the case when using road transport but also the case when using air transport because in order to reach Lesotho one uses a connecting flight (controlled by Airlink, an airways company) from the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa and this is because Lesotho does not own an airline company and its airport is too small to land big planes. This proved to be true during the 2010 FIFA World Cup where entering and exiting South Africa to Lesotho by road meant long hours in the queue waiting for your passport to be scanned and this was enforced solely by the South African government alone.

The number of South African companies marketing and making money out of Lesotho based tours is alarming and worst of all, the country gets minimal revenue from those tours. The biggest threat comes from Free State tour operators because they do not hire local tour operators to conduct those tours; they conduct the tours in Lesotho themselves.

South Africa is the country’s biggest competitor because it has almost everything and more than what Lesotho offers and markets those attractions well to the international market.

At this juncture I will try to look at what other countries are doing, both the developing countries like South Africa and the developed countries like Ireland and others.

What other countries are doing

The Developed Countries:

The first country that I will look at is Switzerland which nearly has a similar terrain to that of Lesotho as it is also mountainous and interesting enough it is also landlocked. It is ranked 15 in absolute size and 47 in relative contribution to national economies by WTTC.

Switzerland has different packages and tours such as Food & Wine, Time Travel (which is basically a historical package of the country), Shopping, Wellness, Cycling, Hiking, Adventure & Sports, Family Vacations and Gay & Lesbian oriented tours to mention a few.

They have a very informative website [6] and it doesn’t end there, different cities also have their own websites which concentrate on their respective cities, for example Zürich [7] which has its own website which is quite informative and up-to-date; it shows the different tour packages for different markets such as Smart spenders and Luxury lovers.

This shows that the marketing and promotion of tourism in this country is of utmost importance to the people of Switzerland.

Now, I will explore Ireland, known as the Emerald Isle; it is well known for its vivid greenness of its countryside.

Ireland is a small country ranked 42 in absolute size and 135 in relative contribution to national economies by WTTC. It exploits the honeymoon and romantic getaways markets; that is why it is also well known as a romantic getaway destination, from Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland you find suitable vacation areas for the newlyweds and ordinary couples who want to have a romantic holiday.

It markets different types of holidays also including adventure tours for the adventure seekers, cycling, family packages, angling, cruising, water based activities, wellness tourism and sports including Equestrian.

The Irish tourism sector is marketed by National Tourism Development Authority through the Failte Ireland [8] and its success is based on the fact that each tourism product which is of great importance is marketed individually by a team of executives, and the investment and development of facilities in those sectors of the tourism industry is their responsibility also. These Sectors include: Activities, Culture & Heritage, Festivals & Events, Sports Tourism, Business Tourism, Spa & Wellness, Food and Accommodation [9] . Ireland focuses on Business Tourism also as a key player in the industry so much that it has its own website [10] which deals with the corporate world leaders in pursuing them to choose Ireland as the host of conferences and seminars. On the website there is information about venues and their facilities and registered corporate event organizers so that the business people can enjoy their stay and the conference without any difficulty.

Failte Ireland has made tremendous progress indeed because it has managed to do the following:

Help improve the skills of people involved in the Irish tourism and help those seeking a career in tourism have been offered training.

Setup an Environment Unit whose role is keeping the natural and built environment at their highest possible standard

Setup a programme of country networks which help small tourism businesses to grow

For improving the range and quality of the tourist attractions, they have secured a seven-year grant aid through the National Development Plan

Caught the eyes of the world market by coordinating large events like the Ryder Cup, just to mention a few.

Moreover, the tourism body in Ireland focuses on not only to attract international tourists like most countries do but also they encourage the Irish population to tour their own country and take domestic holidays.

Developing Countries

Now coming to countries which the world views them as developing countries like Lesotho it would only be fair to consider other African countries, relatively bigger and smaller than Lesotho geographically.

Once again I will consider Swaziland as it has a lot in common with Lesotho, it is a monarchy, it is small like Lesotho and landlocked just to mention a few. Therefore, I believe it would only be logical and fair to compare the two countries.

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Swaziland has an eye-catching, informative and most importantly, an up-to-date website [11] . Swaziland’s tourism body, the Swaziland Tourism Authority, focuses on promoting different types of tours for different markets which range from adventure tourism (like Lesotho) to shopping and culture oriented tourism because they are a country rich in culture hence the reason why the King is still both the head of state and the head of government.

Considering South Africa which is a trendsetter and a role model of other Southern African countries because of its success and influence, I will look at what it is doing to promote its product.

The Government of South Africa through the Ministry of Tourism injected R 631 million [12] into the South African Tourism (SAT) whose role is to promote South Africa’s tourism.

The SAT like the LTDC, promotes domestic tourism. Since 2007 they did so using a campaign called the Sho’t Left Campaign, “See your world differently” [13] . The campaign’s aim is showcasing the myriad of affordable and within reach holiday destinations to all South Africans. Its execution is colourful and lively, designed to attract South Africans, more particularly those who have not toured their motherland. The main objective of this marketing campaign is to show South Africans the ease factors and affordability of going around the country. The target market of the campaign is three niche markets, Well-off couples and families, the youth and independent couples and families. The main objective of the Sho’t Left campaign is sourcing and publicizing a variety of reasonably priced package holidays. At its inception, it involved an aired travel oriented challenge which was broadcast on SABC 2. Although the Sho’t Left Challenge is no longer aired, SAT continues with marketing and encouraging South Africans to tour their own country with TV commercials [14] which show foreign tourists, touring the places of interest and some closing with a comment: “They have toured our country, have you?”

Apart from promoting domestic tourism, the SAT has an up-to-date website [15] which covers all sectors of their tourism industry including Business tourism which is a good source of revenue because the international and regional conferences are attended by well-established business people who want nothing less than top quality and are willing to pay for it.

Unexploited Markets

At this juncture, I will look at unexploited markets which can be a cash cow for tour operators and the industry as a whole.

Firstly, like Swaziland, Lesotho still has rich culture which can be a measure tourist attraction as it is in Swaziland. The international tourists are interested in the African culture and are becoming more and more interested in experiencing traditional African cuisine. Another anecdote is of one tourist who was taken to one of these five star accommodation and entertainment establishments and emphasized that ‘they (Western people) are the ones who brought this establishments to Africa and they are tired of them, which is the reason why they are touring Africa’. This has proved to be true because during the FIFA Soccer World Cup which was recently held in South Africa, the international tourists especially the Germans enjoyed staying and dinning in Soweto which is a big township made of different ethnic groups of South Africa.

Secondly, adventure tourism has niche markets which have not been fully exploited yet. For example, the off-road market is increasing and as a result an increasing number of bikers clubs are looking for challenging tracks which they can use for their sport and Lesotho has an appropriate terrain for such people who want to ride on their bikes just for the fun of it, not for competitive racing. Therefore tours can be organized for this niche where a track across the mountain highlands can be set up for touring the highlands on bikes. Moreover there is this biggest racing competition of the year called the Roof of Africa Rally. Currently the race attracts the bikers’ families and their sponsors, therefore the rally should be marketed globally to attract foreign and local spectators to come and view this race first hand. The LTDC can help in by advertising this event extensively at the annual exhibitions that they attend and by coordinating this event to ensure its success.

When someone is in Cape Town, South Africa, one of the questions he will be asked by people is, did you go to the Table Mountain. Lesotho also can make money from its “Table Mountain”, Thabana Ntlenyana which is the highest peak in Southern Africa. A huge market exists for this because people would be able to make it to the top of the peak using a cable car if one is to be set up there and adventure seekers would probably climb up the mountain if they are familiar with rock climbing. Although the cable car can be very expensive to set up, it would pay huge dividends to the investors, government and the tourism industry as a whole.

One other possible cash cow is ecotourism, the reason being that Lesotho has an unpolluted atmosphere due to not being part of the industrial revolution. Furthermore Lesotho has undulating landscape and rugged terrain which other western and Asian countries do not have because many of those countries are flat.

Amongst other ecotourism sites there is the Maluti Drakensberg, this area consists of many exclusive features [16] :

Fauna and flora found in Lesotho only

24 species of snakes

350 species of birds of which 40 are exclusive to Lesotho only and 10 endangered species

100 grass types

Unspoilt ecology of the sites

It is one of the finest art galleries in the world due to the rock paintings

Adventure tourism hotspot

The importance of ecotourism and its benefits can be summed up in Héctor Ceballos-Lascuráin’s words:

“… the person who practices ecotourism has the opportunity of immersing him or herself in nature in a way that most people cannot enjoy in their routine, urban existences. This person will eventually acquire a consciousness and knowledge of the natural environment, together with its cultural aspects, that will convert him or her into somebody keenly involved in conservation issues” [17] 

Conclusion

Having seen the potential income generators I will therefore focus on other recommendations:

Lesotho has to:

Add more information on the travelers’ website which includes tour operators’ contact details and more tourist attractions apart from the national parks.

Set tourism as a high priority: by investing in human, financial and other resources

Intensify marketing effort in the region so that the country benefits from the effort that SAT has already embarked on which is already bringing tourist in the vicinity of Lesotho.

Put in place representative offices in three major cities of South Africa – namely, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Government should deploy tourism attaché in every embassy of Lesotho around the world.

The government should also deploy a tourism attaché at South African International Airports namely, the O.R. Tambo International Airport, King Shaka (La Mercy) International Airport and the Cape Town International Airport.

Empower local business people who are involved with tourism so that they can improve the performance of their operations.

Setup ongoing training programmes for the business owners, managers and staff in the tourism industry.

Monitoring of all the programmes and making adjustments progressively to ensure a constant growth of the industry.

Improve and protect tourism product, especially special attractions unique to the country.

The LTDC should refocus its strategies in order to adapt to the ever changing international market and competition by continually revising its action plan and revising its tourism trends’ forecast.

Market ecotourism extensively as Lesotho has world class ecotourism sites and features

In summation, based on the unexploited income generators aforementioned and my recommendations, I can safely say Lesotho’s tourism industry has a great potential of being a major contributor to the country’s economy as it is the case for countries like Zimbabwe and others.

With a fleet of enthusiast tour operators that Lesotho has, the chances of the industry growing are alarming because of the passion that they have as the interview [18] revealed but a lot has to be done to nature that passion so that they do not end-up losing hope and believe in the industry.

Appendix A

Interview with a tour operator and Secretary of the Lesotho Tour Operators Association

Mr. Motlatsi Rametse

Q. What are some of the challenges you meet as a tour operator?

“The destination (Lesotho as a tourist destination) is not known therefore it results in small number of tourists coming to this country although 7 million tourists come to Southern Africa annually

Lack of support by financial institutions

Rigid insurance companies offering limited insurance products, none of them able to cover tourism services

Lack of political will”

Q. Do you think the government and the LTDC has done enough to promote tourism, if not why?

“No, they have failed to link up with South Africa although the country is totally surrounded by it.

They have also failed to intensify tourism marketing in regions that predominately favours tourism to Lesotho. Only 5.8% that reach South Africa come to Lesotho.”

Q. What keeps you going irrespective of the challenges you meet in the industry?

“Diversifying by running other business ventures in parallel with tour operation and my love for tourism”

Q. Do you think the tourism industry has a potential of growing given its state currently and what can be done to facilitate the growth?

“Yes, what needs to be done is aggressive marketing in South Africa through South African media to travel agents and tour operators based in South Africa

Develop a revolving fund to support tourism related projects and businesses”

Q. What seems to be driving tourists away from Lesotho or why are the numbers of tourists who visit the country not increasing?

“Lack of marketing

Lack of standard accommodation facilities

Lack of quality service (customer care)”

In the essay the researcher was able to come up with the current status of the industry, that is, what the marketing body and the government are doing to promote tourism. Moreover, the study includes the country’s Strategic Analysis in a pursuit to shed light on the opportunities that are open for Lesotho’s tourism.

From there the investigation entails what other countries’ marketing mix especially Promotion involves and the researcher is not only based on fellow Developing countries but also other Developed countries.

The investigation also looks at the unexploited markets of Lesotho which can be a major boost to both the industry and the country’s economy at large. These unexploited markets are based on the Product portfolio of the country which has not yet been natured or in some cases, the products that are not being promoted well enough or at all.

In the conclusion there are recommendations on what the tourism stakeholders should do to ensure that the country’s tourism industry performs at its optimum level.

Lesotho’s tourism industry is currently ranked 180 out of 181 economies in relative contribution to national economies and 150 in absolute size worldwide by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and personally as a Mosotho this is appalling indeed considering the fact that fellow Southern African countries like Swaziland and South Africa are ranked 167 and 101 in relative contribution to national economies respectively, but on the brighter side, Lesotho is ranked 50th in 10-year growth which shows that it has a high potential of growing.

Therefore the core aim of this essay will be how Lesotho’s tourism industry can be improved both in the long-run and short term. I will examine the Product, Promotion and Place mostly as it will be difficult to get the consumers view about the Pricing. Moreover I will use different Analytical tools as aids in this essay.

What made the researcher, me, choose this topic is the fact that I was born and bred in Lesotho and I have a close relative actively engaged in the country’s tourism industry and the above mentioned reasons have evoked my interest in tourism as a whole and has lead to this keen interest of looking into possible ways of improving this unique product better known as the “Kingdom in the Sky”, hence the topic: “CAN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY OF LESOTHO BECOME A MAJOR CONTRIBUTOR TO LESOTHO’S ECONOMY?”

What Lesotho is doing

The country’s tourism industry is primarily marketed by a parastatal, the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) which is a government initiative.

I find it fitting to firstly establish the current state of the country’s tourism industry so that I can move on to raising applicable recommendations. To establish this I interviewed a Marketing personnel at the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation at the Maseru Information Centre, who emphasized that they as the tourism body are in charge of promoting the country’s tourism and currently they do so by attending regional and international exhibitions such as the well-known Indaba which is Africa’s top travel show held annually in Durban and the ITB Berlin Convention which is the highly respected and decorated travel conference in the world; they attend these exhibitions in order to bring to the attention of international tour operators that Lesotho is the home of adventure tourism so that they include the “Kingdom in the Sky” in the around Africa or around the world tour packages they offer to their clients which mostly are “big spenders”.

The mammoth challenge is that the international market did not know that Lesotho exists therefore firstly the LTDC had to overcome this challenge which they have made commendable progress with their informative campaign by attending these kind of aforementioned exhibitions and others annually so that the industry takes them seriously and does not forget about them by seeing them frequently taking an active role and setting up award winning stands ( Lesotho’s stand was dubbed the best stand at the 2008 Indaba and at the 2010 ITB the LTDC’s stand was amongst the top 10 best stands at the exhibition)

Apart from the annual exhibitions, the LTDC hosts a monthly expo called the Maseru Bazaar at the Maseru Tourist Information Office which showcases local handicraft, traditional dances and local artists of all genres. Furthermore, stalls are put up for all interested individuals in the tourism industry to show their products to the public and visiting tourists who often make their first stop here when they enter the country. The core aim of this expo is to market domestic tourism, that is, to encourage the people of Lesotho to tour their home country, they call this campaign “Know your country first”.

Their campaigns are focused on adventure tourism more than anything because of the country’s rugged terrain and its mountainous geography, therefore most of their budget is apportioned to selling this type of tourism to their regional counterparts and the international market at large.

The LTDC has recently developed a travelers’ website [1] which provides information about where to stay, what to do and a list of upcoming events to mention just a few.

One key aspect in the business industry is the product, this is also the LTDC’s priority to make sure that what they are selling to the regional and international markets is of highest possible quality. They do this by encouraging people to keep the country clean although in this department they are not doing that much as expected.

There has to be a reason why the LTDC is performing the way they are currently, not being at their best. Like many other African countries would say, and has become their “anthem”, the main reason is funding, the government is not injecting sufficient money into the country’s tourism industry to allow the LTDC to function at their optimum best. For the 2010/2011 Financial year, the government apportioned M 53.2 million compared to M 69.7 million [2] for the previous financial year for the Ministry of Tourism Environment and Culture. This is a serious problem which may be caused by the cultural background of Africans because they do not believe in touring themselves but they put effort and money in agriculture which recently is failing them.

The private sector is the one which is doing their level best to try and market the Kingdom in the Sky so that they as individual companies can survive, they have gone to the level of setting up an independent body called Lesotho Council for Tourism (LCT) which includes every business related to tourism, tour operators, accommodation establishments, catering services and others. The core aim of this body is to provide tourism training programmes, support for tourism development and assistance to the tourism private sector to maintain high quality tourism products [3] . It aims to achieve these by encouraging local and international investments in the industry and by offering its members access to membership international tourism bodies (Regional Tourism Organization for Southern Africa, South African Tourism Association).

Strategic Analysis

But what are the strengths and weaknesses of Lesotho’s tourism industry? To answer these questions and others I will use the SWOT analysis.

Strengths

Product

Lesotho is home to numerous unique landmarks which can only be offered by Lesotho and Lesotho only:

The highest pub in Africa which is the Sani Top Chalet

The longest single drop waterfall in Southern Africa

The highest lowest point in altitude in the world

The highest peak in Southern Africa, Thabana Ntlenyana

Letšeng Diamond Mine which is the highest (altitude) mine in the world

Apart from those unique landmarks Lesotho has the following:

Undulating landscape (magnificent and widely accepted)

Friendly and hospitable people

What Basotho call the Engineering Project of the decade which is the Katse Dam, consists of a 185m tall double-curvature arch wall, and other Lesotho Highlands Water Project dams

National Parks and Game Reserves

Rock art which comprises of foreshortening [4] and therianthropes [5] 

Workforce

The industry has several passionate people engaged in different sectors of the tourism industry, tour operators, information office personnel, hospitable hotel staff and others.

Weaknesses

Product

There are various disturbing factors about the product that Lesotho is selling; the defects include:

Several places of interest like rock paintings have been vandalized by untrained care-takers and villagers some thinking they are preserving the works of art; as did one care-taker of the Bushmen paintings’ site who poured water on the paintings thinking they will be more visible only to find out that he was destroying the artifacts.

Maseru as the capital city of Lesotho cannot accommodate more than one thousand tourists. On the contrary, even if more establishments were set up, most of the time the rooms would not be occupied because this came to the attention of a tour operator when he had to organize a tour for a group of 1000 guests.

Tour operators do not have big vehicles to handle large groups which forces them to hire local coaches which most of them are not satisfactory because they travel day-in day-out as taxis therefore they are not looked after that well.

Workforce

Customs’ staff at the various ports of entry does not treat visitors well at all, they do not have customer care training. Numerous tourists have complained about this at the Tourist Information Office in Maseru.

Accommodation receptionists at several establishments in the outskirts of Maseru also have a problem of having not undergone a customer care course. This is a serious problem because one tour operator told me his anecdote of when he was at a hotel in Mafeteng where he waited for about half an hour for a receptionist to appear and when she appeared she did not even greet him nor apologized for being late, she arrogantly asked them what he wanted. This is appalling and is slowly driving people away from the Kingdom in the Sky.

Opportunities

The world is dominated by high-tech machinery and technological advances which cause stress to its users and this has lead to people wanting to tour original and ethnic countries away from their daily busy urban life and Lesotho is one of them, therefore the market for cultural and eco-tourism is fast growing and Lesotho should fight for its share in this market.

Lesotho is investor friendly and for that reason foreign investors could be approached so that they build accommodation settlements and other facilities to improve what the country offers the world and they themselves will be moved to promote the country for their investments sake.

South Africa’s accommodation rates have risen sharply because of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and these prices are chasing tourists away now that tournament is over while Lesotho’s accommodation rates have not changed significantly meaning more people would choose Lesotho over South Africa.

Threats

Lesotho is totally landlocked by South Africa; therefore healthy diplomatic relations between the two countries are of utmost importance because South Africa is the only road gateway into and out of Lesotho. This is not only the case when using road transport but also the case when using air transport because in order to reach Lesotho one uses a connecting flight (controlled by Airlink, an airways company) from the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa and this is because Lesotho does not own an airline company and its airport is too small to land big planes. This proved to be true during the 2010 FIFA World Cup where entering and exiting South Africa to Lesotho by road meant long hours in the queue waiting for your passport to be scanned and this was enforced solely by the South African government alone.

The number of South African companies marketing and making money out of Lesotho based tours is alarming and worst of all, the country gets minimal revenue from those tours. The biggest threat comes from Free State tour operators because they do not hire local tour operators to conduct those tours; they conduct the tours in Lesotho themselves.

South Africa is the country’s biggest competitor because it has almost everything and more than what Lesotho offers and markets those attractions well to the international market.

At this juncture I will try to look at what other countries are doing, both the developing countries like South Africa and the developed countries like Ireland and others.

What other countries are doing

The Developed Countries:

The first country that I will look at is Switzerland which nearly has a similar terrain to that of Lesotho as it is also mountainous and interesting enough it is also landlocked. It is ranked 15 in absolute size and 47 in relative contribution to national economies by WTTC.

Switzerland has different packages and tours such as Food & Wine, Time Travel (which is basically a historical package of the country), Shopping, Wellness, Cycling, Hiking, Adventure & Sports, Family Vacations and Gay & Lesbian oriented tours to mention a few.

They have a very informative website [6] and it doesn’t end there, different cities also have their own websites which concentrate on their respective cities, for example Zürich [7] which has its own website which is quite informative and up-to-date; it shows the different tour packages for different markets such as Smart spenders and Luxury lovers.

This shows that the marketing and promotion of tourism in this country is of utmost importance to the people of Switzerland.

Now, I will explore Ireland, known as the Emerald Isle; it is well known for its vivid greenness of its countryside.

Ireland is a small country ranked 42 in absolute size and 135 in relative contribution to national economies by WTTC. It exploits the honeymoon and romantic getaways markets; that is why it is also well known as a romantic getaway destination, from Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland you find suitable vacation areas for the newlyweds and ordinary couples who want to have a romantic holiday.

It markets different types of holidays also including adventure tours for the adventure seekers, cycling, family packages, angling, cruising, water based activities, wellness tourism and sports including Equestrian.

The Irish tourism sector is marketed by National Tourism Development Authority through the Failte Ireland [8] and its success is based on the fact that each tourism product which is of great importance is marketed individually by a team of executives, and the investment and development of facilities in those sectors of the tourism industry is their responsibility also. These Sectors include: Activities, Culture & Heritage, Festivals & Events, Sports Tourism, Business Tourism, Spa & Wellness, Food and Accommodation [9] . Ireland focuses on Business Tourism also as a key player in the industry so much that it has its own website [10] which deals with the corporate world leaders in pursuing them to choose Ireland as the host of conferences and seminars. On the website there is information about venues and their facilities and registered corporate event organizers so that the business people can enjoy their stay and the conference without any difficulty.

Failte Ireland has made tremendous progress indeed because it has managed to do the following:

Help improve the skills of people involved in the Irish tourism and help those seeking a career in tourism have been offered training.

Setup an Environment Unit whose role is keeping the natural and built environment at their highest possible standard

Setup a programme of country networks which help small tourism businesses to grow

For improving the range and quality of the tourist attractions, they have secured a seven-year grant aid through the National Development Plan

Caught the eyes of the world market by coordinating large events like the Ryder Cup, just to mention a few.

Moreover, the tourism body in Ireland focuses on not only to attract international tourists like most countries do but also they encourage the Irish population to tour their own country and take domestic holidays.

Developing Countries

Now coming to countries which the world views them as developing countries like Lesotho it would only be fair to consider other African countries, relatively bigger and smaller than Lesotho geographically.

Once again I will consider Swaziland as it has a lot in common with Lesotho, it is a monarchy, it is small like Lesotho and landlocked just to mention a few. Therefore, I believe it would only be logical and fair to compare the two countries.

Swaziland has an eye-catching, informative and most importantly, an up-to-date website [11] . Swaziland’s tourism body, the Swaziland Tourism Authority, focuses on promoting different types of tours for different markets which range from adventure tourism (like Lesotho) to shopping and culture oriented tourism because they are a country rich in culture hence the reason why the King is still both the head of state and the head of government.

Considering South Africa which is a trendsetter and a role model of other Southern African countries because of its success and influence, I will look at what it is doing to promote its product.

The Government of South Africa through the Ministry of Tourism injected R 631 million [12] into the South African Tourism (SAT) whose role is to promote South Africa’s tourism.

The SAT like the LTDC, promotes domestic tourism. Since 2007 they did so using a campaign called the Sho’t Left Campaign, “See your world differently” [13] . The campaign’s aim is showcasing the myriad of affordable and within reach holiday destinations to all South Africans. Its execution is colourful and lively, designed to attract South Africans, more particularly those who have not toured their motherland. The main objective of this marketing campaign is to show South Africans the ease factors and affordability of going around the country. The target market of the campaign is three niche markets, Well-off couples and families, the youth and independent couples and families. The main objective of the Sho’t Left campaign is sourcing and publicizing a variety of reasonably priced package holidays. At its inception, it involved an aired travel oriented challenge which was broadcast on SABC 2. Although the Sho’t Left Challenge is no longer aired, SAT continues with marketing and encouraging South Africans to tour their own country with TV commercials [14] which show foreign tourists, touring the places of interest and some closing with a comment: “They have toured our country, have you?”

Apart from promoting domestic tourism, the SAT has an up-to-date website [15] which covers all sectors of their tourism industry including Business tourism which is a good source of revenue because the international and regional conferences are attended by well-established business people who want nothing less than top quality and are willing to pay for it.

Unexploited Markets

At this juncture, I will look at unexploited markets which can be a cash cow for tour operators and the industry as a whole.

Firstly, like Swaziland, Lesotho still has rich culture which can be a measure tourist attraction as it is in Swaziland. The international tourists are interested in the African culture and are becoming more and more interested in experiencing traditional African cuisine. Another anecdote is of one tourist who was taken to one of these five star accommodation and entertainment establishments and emphasized that ‘they (Western people) are the ones who brought this establishments to Africa and they are tired of them, which is the reason why they are touring Africa’. This has proved to be true because during the FIFA Soccer World Cup which was recently held in South Africa, the international tourists especially the Germans enjoyed staying and dinning in Soweto which is a big township made of different ethnic groups of South Africa.

Secondly, adventure tourism has niche markets which have not been fully exploited yet. For example, the off-road market is increasing and as a result an increasing number of bikers clubs are looking for challenging tracks which they can use for their sport and Lesotho has an appropriate terrain for such people who want to ride on their bikes just for the fun of it, not for competitive racing. Therefore tours can be organized for this niche where a track across the mountain highlands can be set up for touring the highlands on bikes. Moreover there is this biggest racing competition of the year called the Roof of Africa Rally. Currently the race attracts the bikers’ families and their sponsors, therefore the rally should be marketed globally to attract foreign and local spectators to come and view this race first hand. The LTDC can help in by advertising this event extensively at the annual exhibitions that they attend and by coordinating this event to ensure its success.

When someone is in Cape Town, South Africa, one of the questions he will be asked by people is, did you go to the Table Mountain. Lesotho also can make money from its “Table Mountain”, Thabana Ntlenyana which is the highest peak in Southern Africa. A huge market exists for this because people would be able to make it to the top of the peak using a cable car if one is to be set up there and adventure seekers would probably climb up the mountain if they are familiar with rock climbing. Although the cable car can be very expensive to set up, it would pay huge dividends to the investors, government and the tourism industry as a whole.

One other possible cash cow is ecotourism, the reason being that Lesotho has an unpolluted atmosphere due to not being part of the industrial revolution. Furthermore Lesotho has undulating landscape and rugged terrain which other western and Asian countries do not have because many of those countries are flat.

Amongst other ecotourism sites there is the Maluti Drakensberg, this area consists of many exclusive features [16] :

Fauna and flora found in Lesotho only

24 species of snakes

350 species of birds of which 40 are exclusive to Lesotho only and 10 endangered species

100 grass types

Unspoilt ecology of the sites

It is one of the finest art galleries in the world due to the rock paintings

Adventure tourism hotspot

The importance of ecotourism and its benefits can be summed up in Héctor Ceballos-Lascuráin’s words:

“… the person who practices ecotourism has the opportunity of immersing him or herself in nature in a way that most people cannot enjoy in their routine, urban existences. This person will eventually acquire a consciousness and knowledge of the natural environment, together with its cultural aspects, that will convert him or her into somebody keenly involved in conservation issues” [17] 

Conclusion

Having seen the potential income generators I will therefore focus on other recommendations:

Lesotho has to:

Add more information on the travelers’ website which includes tour operators’ contact details and more tourist attractions apart from the national parks.

Set tourism as a high priority: by investing in human, financial and other resources

Intensify marketing effort in the region so that the country benefits from the effort that SAT has already embarked on which is already bringing tourist in the vicinity of Lesotho.

Put in place representative offices in three major cities of South Africa – namely, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Government should deploy tourism attaché in every embassy of Lesotho around the world.

The government should also deploy a tourism attaché at South African International Airports namely, the O.R. Tambo International Airport, King Shaka (La Mercy) International Airport and the Cape Town International Airport.

Empower local business people who are involved with tourism so that they can improve the performance of their operations.

Setup ongoing training programmes for the business owners, managers and staff in the tourism industry.

Monitoring of all the programmes and making adjustments progressively to ensure a constant growth of the industry.

Improve and protect tourism product, especially special attractions unique to the country.

The LTDC should refocus its strategies in order to adapt to the ever changing international market and competition by continually revising its action plan and revising its tourism trends’ forecast.

Market ecotourism extensively as Lesotho has world class ecotourism sites and features

In summation, based on the unexploited income generators aforementioned and my recommendations, I can safely say Lesotho’s tourism industry has a great potential of being a major contributor to the country’s economy as it is the case for countries like Zimbabwe and others.

With a fleet of enthusiast tour operators that Lesotho has, the chances of the industry growing are alarming because of the passion that they have as the interview [18] revealed but a lot has to be done to nature that passion so that they do not end-up losing hope and believe in the industry.

Appendix A

Interview with a tour operator and Secretary of the Lesotho Tour Operators Association

Mr. Motlatsi Rametse

Q. What are some of the challenges you meet as a tour operator?

“The destination (Lesotho as a tourist destination) is not known therefore it results in small number of tourists coming to this country although 7 million tourists come to Southern Africa annually

Lack of support by financial institutions

Rigid insurance companies offering limited insurance products, none of them able to cover tourism services

Lack of political will”

Q. Do you think the government and the LTDC has done enough to promote tourism, if not why?

“No, they have failed to link up with South Africa although the country is totally surrounded by it.

They have also failed to intensify tourism marketing in regions that predominately favours tourism to Lesotho. Only 5.8% that reach South Africa come to Lesotho.”

Q. What keeps you going irrespective of the challenges you meet in the industry?

“Diversifying by running other business ventures in parallel with tour operation and my love for tourism”

Q. Do you think the tourism industry has a potential of growing given its state currently and what can be done to facilitate the growth?

“Yes, what needs to be done is aggressive marketing in South Africa through South African media to travel agents and tour operators based in South Africa

Develop a revolving fund to support tourism related projects and businesses”

Q. What seems to be driving tourists away from Lesotho or why are the numbers of tourists who visit the country not increasing?

“Lack of marketing

Lack of standard accommodation facilities

Lack of quality service (customer care)”

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