With the vastness of the Maluti Mountains, the scenic Qiloane and Thabana-Li-Mmele, the hidden caves housing Khoi-San paintings and the gushing stream of the Senqu River and cascading waters of Maletsunyane Falls, Lesotho is a land waiting to tell stories about its heritage and beauty. Such stories can effectively be narrated by the collaborators in the tourism industry; men and women whose passion is to see the Mountain Kingdom welcome footsteps of those from lands in time zones far and wide, and new faces eager to embrace her majestic beauty.
In response to this inherent longing for a Lesotho that is accessible to the world UNDP Lesotho Accelerator Lab (AccLab)hosted the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture (MTEC); Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC); Lerotholi Polytechnic; Limkokwing University of Creative Technology; the Association of Travel Agents of Lesotho (ATAL); Lesotho Hotels and Hospitality Association (LHHA); Mountain Kingdom Tour Guides Association (MKTGA); Tour Operators Association of Lesotho (TOAL); Lesotho Council for Tourism (LCT); Earth-Lovers Hiking Club and Thaphoha Hiking Club for a two day Collective Intelligence Workshop on the documentation of tourist attraction sites as well as the development of a national photobank.
Aligning with the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II) through which the Government of Lesotho (Gol) prioritizes tourism as a driver for economic growth in the country, the AccLab is supporting this development goal by capacitating collaborators within an industry which is said to be a pivotal sector for such growth. “We want to make much contribution towards the GDP at the end of the year as the tourism industry.” Stated the Public Relations Officer of LCT, Liteboho Leketa. The aim of the workshop was to gather insights from stakeholders on how tourist attraction sites can be documented; how guidelines on the documentation of tourist attraction sites can be developed; the creation of an information hub for tourism products and services which can be marketed to garner investments; to build relationships and collaborations between diversified action groups which will be capacitated to drive execution of the development of the photo bank; capacitate hiking clubs on the use of media technologies in order to gain good quality pictures and videos for documentation; capacitate and build collaboration between hiking clubs and MTEC in the protection of heritage sites as stipulated in the Department of Culture policy guidelines.
During the workshop, Mr. Teboho Khoali, AccLab Head of Experimentation informed collaborators that the term “Collective Intelligence” translated to Sesotho means: “ Bohlale ha bo ahele ntloaneng e le ngoe.” Meaning that the Workshop was aimed at collective dialogues to reach solutions which will benefit the Lesotho tourism sector. Highlighting some of their challenges, such as the lack of community awareness about the preservation of heritage sites, the lack of community involvement in the advancement of tourism, limited accessibility to some attraction sites due to poor roads, limited funding to preserve heritage sites and to advertise Lesotho as a travel destination, lack of documentation of Lesotho tourism attractions, silo mentality of stakeholders in the tourism industry, lack of knowledge by stakeholders on how to sustainably use tourist attraction sites and the declining passion and enthusiasm of locals to support the tourism industry.
The AccLab encouraged collaborators to explore the social, cultural, technological and political factors as drivers which share these problems. Some of these include, the unstable political climate in Lesotho which rendered previous solutions to build the tourism industry ineffective; the lack of political will which leads to uninformed decision-making; lack of access to relevant technologies to enable documentation of tourist attraction sites; and the commercialisation of cultural resources to attract tourists which dilutes the authenticity of Lesotho’s heritage and uniqueness.
Exploring solutions which already exist, Collaborators mapped out ways on how these can be enhanced, as well as ways to document tourist attraction sites. Some of the solutions which were proposed are to drive stakeholder engagements; for locals to work collectively with development partners; adequate allocation of resources; resource mobilization at a local level to drive Lesotho towards a common goal; documentation of tourist attraction sites by conducting surveys, classifying them and developing a database to preserve all the relevant information; and the development of monitoring and evaluation systems. Additionally, the key stakeholders made pledges to collaborate and support each other. “My biggest goal for participating in this workshop is to build collaboration between the government and the private sector so that our collective efforts can assist communities to benefit from the preservation of heritage sites.” Semela Mona, a Senior Museum Curator in the Department of Culture at the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture
Limkokwing University of Creative Technology pledged to offer assistance to LTDC with video productions and the creation of social media content to advertise tourist attraction sites;
LTDC pledged to directly engage Tour Operators and Hotels to collaborate with travel influencers who can market Lesotho as a top travel destination;
Limkokwing University in partnership with UNDP Lesotho and Lerotholi Polytechnic pledges to offer expertise in creating a Marketing Strategy for LTDC;
Earth-Lovers Hiking Club pledged commitment to the development of the national photobank. “I made a commitment to put down a proposal as a key developer of the national photobank because as Earth-Lovers Hiking Club, we are exposed to beautiful scenery on a daily basis.” Liteboho Leketa, President of Earth-Lovers Hiking Club.
While building stakeholder collaborations, especially between the private sector and the government, the Workshop also boosted the morale of those in the tourism industry by breaking them out of their restrictive silos. It also encouraged them by bringing to their attention that UNDP Lesotho AccLab is solutions driven and will utilise resources to capacitate Basotho in key areas of sustainable economic growth such as the tourism industries. Indeed Lesotho stands to benefit exponentially from the proper documentation of tourist attraction sites and a well-developed photobank.