THE Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) wants the government to reduce visa fees to help boost tourist arrivals.
Visa fees for both single and multiple entries went up following the launch of the M300 million electronic visa (e-visa) system in May this year. Lesotho charges US$150 (about M2 025) for a single-entry visa and US$250 (about M3 375) for a multiple-entry visa.
The steep visa charges come at a time the LTDC is pulling out all the stops to reverse the negative perceptions that impacted on the sector following Lesotho’s political and security instability, which started in 2014.
According to LTDC Chief Executive Officer, Mr Mpaiphele Maqutu, the price of the visa had proved to be a stumbling block to their efforts to get more tourists to visit Lesotho. He said the cost of Lesotho’s visa remains much higher than that of top tourist destinations such as neighbouring South Africa, Namibia and Morocco.
Morocco is the most visited country in Africa with over 10 million tourist arrivals recorded in 2013. The north African country charges between £22 (about M308) and £28 (M392) for single and multiple entry visas respectively. South Africa, which ranks second for most arrivals, charges $36 (about M486) and $127 (about M1715) for single entry and multiple entry visas respectively.
“We are in the process of discussing this issue with the government because the current visa fee is not tourism-friendly. We are optimistic that a reduction in the fee, among other concerted efforts we are working on, will help increase attraction to Lesotho,” Mr Maqutu told the Lesotho Times this week.
He explained the industry norm in terms of pricing is that the visa fees should range between US$30 and US$50, meaning the whopping US$150 and US$ 250 fees Lesotho charges are too high.
Mr Maqutu said while the introduction of the electronic visa by the Ministry of Home Affairs was a step in the right direction in terms of reducing the turnaround time for visa applications and improving the vetting of applicants to prevent human trafficking, among other benefits, there was urgent need to ensure that visa pricing packages were competitive.
“Flexibility is key in the tourism sector without necessarily compromising the security and regulations of the country. In view of the current situation, we need to be responsive to the needs of the sector because failure to do so contributes to Lesotho being eliminated from travellers’ lists.”
He further said the introduction of a wider visa package, including day visas which are issued on arrival could work well for the many visitors who frequent iconic destinations such as the Sani Top.
“Every hour, scores of day visitors flock into the Sani Top Park and they do not pay anything because we do not provide a day visa, which could have generated a lot of revenue. We are optimistic that a progressive visa package that is anchored on modern-day sustainable tourism practices, will attract more tourists,” he said.