from RETHABILE SELLO in Leribe, Lesotho
LERIBE – SOME hotels in Lesotho have been forced to close as the tourism sector continues bearing the brunt of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
This has led to loss of jobs and salary cuts as those that remain in operation struggle to stay afloat.
Among those that have lost their jobs is Mamphaka Ralehlathe, who worked for five years as a manager for a guest house.
The facility could not survive the lockdown measures and travel restrictions implemented by government to curb the pandemic that was first reported in the country in May 2020.
In an exclusive interview with Rivers Travel, Ralehlathe said the hotel management had pledged to call affected employees in case they reopened but this has not happened.
She is struggling to get another job under the prevailing unemployment situation in the country.
The unemployment rate in Lesotho was expected to reach 24,40 percent by the end of 2021.
“Tourism has lost its value. It will only survive in the disappearance of COVID-19,” Ralehlathe lamented.
Leribe district, found on the southern side of Lesotho, is among areas experiencing a downturn in tourism.
Palesa Phasumane, Assistant Tourism Officer for the region, said since the pandemic, tourists from outside the country had shown up in smaller numbers, leading to the closure of most accommodation facilities.
She said on a normal basis most hotels generated income through international tourism but because of the massive fall in arrivals those that remain operational were struggling to survive.
During the recent December holidays, people who came into the country were for visits, not for tourism purposes.
“The accommodation facilities which survived are those serving the government by hosting of workshops,” Phasumane exclusively told Rivers Travel.
In an interview, an owner of the accommodation facility, who opted to remain anonymous, said facility was at its worst financially.
“We do not even know which strategies to apply to recover,” the owner stated.
He indicated that only domestic tourists showed up during festive season but in limited numbers.
Meanwhile, makers of artefacts such as traditional hats and mats that are popular with tourists are also struggling.
Households headed by women, who are a majority of the craft, are worst affected.
Lesotho has recorded a total of 32,049 cases including 690 deaths at the time of going to press.
– CAJ News