By Mpho Shelile

MASERU – Tourism is a huge part of our global culture, allowing us to explore different parts of the world, meet people from different walks of life, and experience new traditions and activities. Since it brings many benefits to both travelers and communities, it can generally be seen as a force for good.

In order to promote the tourism industry in Lesotho, Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) has collaborated with Women in Tourism Lesotho Association (WITLA) in ensuring that they attract more tourists to this year’s summit which will be held at Manthabiseng Convention Center from the 27 to the 29 November.

The acting public management director Mr. Molapo Matela stated that the main purpose of the event is to instill the concept of sustainability in the tourism sector which is generally focused on extending the longevity of natural resources to maintain economic growth. “Therefore, we all have a lot to gain from alternative forms of tourism, including sustainable forms. The best places for sustainable tourism to be developed are regions with natural resources, landscapes, or cultural buildings – all features that attract tourists, which they might want to explore and admire local destinations and cultures in an environmentally friendly way.

Opening remarks by WITLA President, Ms. Matšeliso Mokuoane, she stated that last year the LTDC, with support from the private sector and tourism businesses, held a conference at ΄Manthabiseng Convention Centre intended to honor and applaud industrious Women in Tourism (WiT).

“The conference motivated tourism businesses to establish the WITLA, which bid to host the Women in Tourism Southern Africa (WITSA) Exhibition and Conference 2023 and got the opportunity to do so”. WITLA is a women owned association that was established in August 2022, however it was legally registered in February 2023 under the Societies Act of Lesotho. She added that the association has over 200 members that encompass women owning and operating businesses in all tourism sub-sectors within the country.

Further stating that the summit is to take 3 days and will be hosted jointly by WITLA and the LTDC. The Summit, envisaged to host between 400 – 500 delegates. It is anticipated to be attended by Women in Business, Local & International Buyers, Exhibitors, Ministers of Tourism, Investors, Business Leaders, Tourism Boards Directors, SADC Secretariat Directors, AU-APRM Executives, Corporate Executive and Managers, Funding Institutions Managers and Academia’s. Around 50 international exhibitors and 15 countries are ­­­­­expected to be present for the second prestigious summit in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. “This endeavor is aimed at stimulating the under-utilized Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) Sector in Lesotho, which can contribute to the GDP of Lesotho.”

Representative of Circle of Global Business Women Lesotho (CGBW) Mrs. Belina ‘Manapo Makhele indicated that their organization is a non-profit organization which was established with the aim of empowering women, “since this summit is women let, we would like to share this endeavor with them”, she stated that tourism in the hands of women is an added advantage because women are the best when it comes to hospitality. She believes with the right education women will thrive in this sector.  

She stated that the summit will promote the Lesotho brand regionally, to other African countries, and potential investors. The summit is also going to make Lesotho’s local brands known regionally and also expand to other African countries and internationally as well as to potential investors.  Snowball effect in the tourism, travel and hospitality sector, – benefit to tour operators, tour guides, accommodation facilities, food and beverages, artisans and crafters, traditional performances etc. Thus direct and indirect job opportunities will be created and ultimately revenue will be generated during the summit. “The summit is expected to create a platform for SMME’s to network with like-minded entrepreneurs, and share knowledge that can enhance and benefit their businesses.  Our youth will be given an opportunity to market and sell their products also network and form business linkages with their SADC counterparts.

LTDC remarks by Head Product Development and Investment Promotion Ms. Mamello Morojele indicated that LTDC is an arm of government mandated to market Lesotho as a tourism destination internationally and domestically and to also develop tourism in Lesotho in partnership with the private sector and host communities. “This we do whilst ensuring that the tourism business sector gets to grow, acquires sustainability in finance for tourism activities, investments as well as services to all end users”

For the LTDC, regional summits and international conferences present invaluable opportunities for Lesotho to be a preferred holiday destination for the MICE sector. The Corporation rallies behind private sector efforts to host tourism summits like this WITSA Conference.

The event will ensure that it uplifts the women of Lesotho by giving them a platform to promote and transact, also expose them to available business opportunities that they can utilize. Moreover the summit is going to play a big role in achieving the milestone of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) especially SDG 5; Gender equality. “By bringing together key stakeholders, sharing knowledge, and fostering collaboration, the conference aims to create a roadmap for a more inclusive, diverse, and prosperous tourism sector where women can thrive.”

“In a survey conducted by LTDC for accommodation in 2022, the report revealed that employment in the tourism sector women consists of the majority of (60.7%) of the workforce in accommodation as compared to males who accounted for 39.3% of the total workforce.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen I want to emphasize that the upcoming WITSA Summit is meant to create a platform to discuss key issues around tourism business development with a view to empower Women and Youth in tourism and create opportunities for businesses in the tourism sector’s value chain, to exhibit their products and services. Tourism and culture promotion- Lesotho will be given an opportunity to showcase their local culture to the delegates” she concluded by urging all Basotho to take part and purchase tickets for this summit and help grow the economy of the country.