COVID-19 rears ugly head at tourism reliant AfriSki
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- the resort may have to refund tourist pre-bookings fees to the tune of 5 million Maloti if strict COVID-19 travel restrictions continue
AfriSki Mountain Resort, Southern African spectacle skiing resort nestled 3050 meters above sea level located Mahlasela pass in Lesotho’s northern district of Botha-Bothe may miss its cash cow, the snowy winter, if COVID-19 travel restrictions continue to throttle tourism.
The skiing resort’s most popular winter attraction has had to temporarily close down doors to its international and cross-border visitors.
Due to the ban on international travel and cross-border travel due to COVID-19 pandemic that brought the world to a standstill and forced government to impose lockdown on economies to arrest the spread of the infections disease the ski resort may lose greatly and be forced to refund its pre-booked visitors their 50 percent deposits.
According to the resort’s Manager Vivian Schultz, she may have to refund her clients about M5 million collected in pre-bookings ahead of the winter season.
She told the KDNews her resort, in preparations for their clients visit they had already used some of the collected money that they may now have to refund back if they cannot host their international and cross-border clients.
“Our resort’s lifeline basically comes from the three months of winter, starting mainly in June until August. During those months we receive hundreds of international and cross-border visitors.
“But it has been very hard for our resort to stay afloat under border and travel restrictions put in place currently. We have monthly expenses hitting a whooping M1.5Million to ensure that we give our visitors a time of their life but now we cannot host them unless something else is done,” Schultz said.
KDNews also learned from an unidentified employee of the resort that local visitors, including prominent figures, have been seen visiting the resort in numbers for activities such as skiing and bum-boarding.
But, the frustrated Schultz said local visitors have tried to support them but unfortunately that is not enough to shield the resort from losing its key income.
Schultz said if the resort keeps its doors closed, visitors will be entitled to claim their money back and her resort cannot afford that at all.
“We need a miracle at this point. Otherwise, we are dead,” Schultz said.
Schultz said resort has relentlessly been trying to seek support but albeit unsuccessful as Lesotho government cannot afford to provide financial rescue packages like some affluent countries during this time of COVID-19.
She has however said the resort is indebted to an undisclosed South African gentleman who assisted the resort with a million Maloti in very generous gesture.
Schultz has however said the nature of their business requires millions to run smoothly hence their dire need for business to come back to normalcy or they will continue to drown.
Schultz also revealed AfriSki has entered into an equity partnership agreement with the Lesotho National Development Corporation.
She said the equity partnership is expected to develop their land, amongst other things, and hopefully salvage the resort.
“AfriSki Mountain Resort is a massively expensive operation, most especially during winter, with snow machines alone costing us high amounts of electricity and maintenance expenses,” said Schultz.
But she adds, with a chuckle that AfriSki continues to be a great playground for international tourists with deep pockets during winter times.
“Since we run only for three months, we have to set high prices. Unfortunately, due to the current harsh uncertain circumstances, we have had to slash our prices really to be very low and cater to local visitors. But that even though attracting local visitors is killing the place as it requires million to run,” Schultz said.
KDNews has learned AfriSki has had to diversify its offerings from March 16th and have 78 of its employees re-skilled in various jobs such as sewing and silk printing.
Moreover, AfriSki’s employees were invited to participate in a leadership development training program offered by the resort.
Since the diversifying started to save jobs, the resorts scored a respectable buyer for their masks in the Letšeng Diamond Mine.
Likopo Liphoto, a receptionist at the resort said he also had to be reskilled and is now part of the silk printing team.
He said, however, that the resort’s staffers remain hopeful and that “it is just a setback… we must stay strong and hopeful”.
Schultz has also hinted that she has been in talks with Minister of Health, Motlatsi Maqelepo, whom she said understands how important AfriSki is to Lesotho as a tourist destination and a source of revenue in taxes.
Schultz said the Minister has advised the resort to invite health inspectors to evaluate the resort ability to function as a self-contained entity that may be able to comply with COVID-19 regulations
And if the Health Department eventually concludes that the resort is a self-contained entity that can comply with COVID-19 regulations, Schultz believes it is and it can, then there might be a way for the resort to host its visitors that had already made bookings.
Schultz said the resort understands that if by some luck permitted to host its visitors, it will have to undertake COVID-19 testing on all its visitors and have Identities Documents of all its visitors.