THE Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) has intensified its initiatives to ensure communities benefit from tourist attractions in their environs by launching the Lowlands Heritage Route to tourist destinations in the four areas of Malimong, Ha Kome, Thaba-Bosiu and Ha Baroana.
The launch was conducted in the Kome village in the Berea district and this is set to enhance the community’s prospects of benefitting from the anticipated tourist traffic to the sites that include Malimong which is widely believed to be the place where the founder of the Basotho nation, King Moshoeshoe I’s father, Peete was killed.
Other areas in the route are Ha Kome which is rich with historical and archaeological information on the lives of the San popularly known as the ‘Bushmen’ as well as the emergence and fall of the Cannibal era in the nineteenth century.
Thaba-Bosiu, the place that was originally inhabited by King Moshoeshoe I as well as Ha Baroana, the cave wall with picturesque paintings of human figures, animals, birds and other paintings along the river which gives a spectacular terrain of the central Maloti mountain range are also on the new route.
The new initiative builds on earlier efforts to empower the villagers which include the development of the Kome Rural Homestays Project in December 2014.
The homestays seek to generate income for the villagers through the provision of accommodation to tourists who would also be presented with the opportunity to experience Basotho culture and hospitality in a domestic setting.
The launch of the Lowlands Heritage Route will further promote the homestays.
During the recent launch of the route, the LTDC took the step of inviting established Basotho tour guides on a familiarisation tour to ensure they would be able to assist tourist clients.
The LTDC partnered with STEP Foundation of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to initiate the community based tourism development project, aimed at improving tourism product and services offered in areas noted for their tourism significance.
LTDC Project Coordinator, Tumisang Ntlaloe, said the aim of the project was to develop the Lowlands Heritage Route where cultural tourists could enjoy a true Basotho cultural experience through spending time with local communities in homestay settings.
Mr Ntlaloe further said that the community would benefit from the project in that tourists will be guided by local tour guides to view the landscape while interacting with community members in the process.
“The intervention was meant to improve the quality of stays for tourists and to further enhance rural community livelihoods as a measure to attract a greater number of tourists passing through these areas and to subsequently stimulate enterprise development and income generating prospects for the adjoining communities,” Mr Ntlaloe said.
The intervention is expected to result in poverty reduction among the host communities while enhancing the tourist experience of Basotho heritage and culture.