Lesotho loses out on World Cup extravaganza

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MASERU — The World Cup has come and gone.

The football tournament had promised so much, but delivered so little for Lesotho.

A week after the final whistle Lesotho has been left to ponder what could have been.

Tourism players in Lesotho had at least expected to see a dramatic rise in tourist arrivals.

But that expectation proved a mirage.

The huge tourist arrivals that were expected in Lesotho just did not materialise.

“We did not join the 2010 bandwagon as a country,” `Matiisetso Libetso, the Lesotho Council for Tourism chief executive, told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday.

Libetso attributed the flop to the “chaos at the border” that saw South Africa tighten entry at all border posts.

The South African government last month imposed new border restrictions that created chaos at Maseru Bridge border post.

Pretoria also cancelled the issuance of the six-month permit that allowed Basotho to cross into South Africa without having their passports scanned.

These restrictions saw motorists spending as much as four hours on either side of the border to have their passports stamped.

Libetso claimed that some tourists wishing to visit Lesotho had cancelled their bookings in Lesotho because of the border chaos.

She however did not provide any figures to back up the claim.

Prior to the World Cup, tourism players in Lesotho mostly in Botha-Bothe, Leribe, Mafeteng and Maseru had made preparations to cash in on the football tournament.

It was expected that these districts would benefit from more tourist arrivals because of their proximity to Bloemfontein, one of the host cities.

But Marotholi Khali, the chairman of the Lesotho Hotels and Hospitality Association, said the numbers had not increased as expected.

“The impact to us as establishments (has been minimal). We have not benefited much from the World Cup.

“There were however some establishments that did receive some tourists,” Khali said.

He said the long queues that were seen at the Maseru border were partly to blame for chasing away tourists who wanted to visit Lesotho.

In an interview with the Lesotho Times, Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation head of marketing, Tebello Thoola, said there had been some slight improvement in tourist arrivals.

“There were international tourists who visited the country during the World Cup and we intensified our tourist promotion initiatives during that period,” Thoola said.

He said a total of 384 tourists had visited Maseru alone during the month-long tournament. Most of these tourists were from England which saw 74 of its nationals visiting the country.

Forty-one tourists came from Germany, 39 came from Slovakia, with 25 tourists coming from Japan and another 25 came from Australia.

It was however not possible to get an indication of the tourists who could have returned at the border because of the mayhem.

Thoola said they had arranged a Maseru Bazaar to exhibit locally produced products to promote local producers and introduce local tourism players to tourists.

“However the tourism industry is quite diverse and it comprises of tour operators, accommodation establishments and other producers in the sector,” he said.

The other reason for the failure to attract tourists was Fifa’s Match Event Services that was organising the accommodation for the World Cup that all accommodation establishments should at least have a two-star grading.

Most of Lesotho’s accommodation establishments are not graded resulting in most of them failing to attract any business during the football extravaganza.

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