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Mpilo Boutique shuts doors



MASERU-MPILO Boutique, one of Lesotho’s most high-end hotels, has shut down for good after failing to recover from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The hotel initially shut its doors in May last year when the country went into lockdown as the pandemic was just beginning to wreak havoc. At that time the management said it hoped the lockdown was temporary and they would soon be back in business. That hope however evaporated as the country continued in lockdown and the borders remained closed. The management this week decided to cut its losses and close the business, bringing one of Lesotho’s chicest hotel brands to an end. The Ministry of Small Business Development is now renting the building for offices, according to ’Mamotake Matekane, the spokeswoman for Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) which owned the hotel. “We found it wise to rent out the building so that it can be able to take care of itself,” Matekane said. The hotel’s demise illustrates how companies, especially those in the tourism sector, have been hit hard by the lockdowns. Hotels, guesthouses and restaurants were amongst the first businesses to close their doors in an attempt to minimize the spread of the virus. Their slow recovery that had started just before the festive reason quickly stopped when a harder lockdown was imposed. Now many owners and managers fear their businesses might never recover. ’Marethabile Sekhiba, the chairperson of the Lesotho Hotels and Hospitality Association (LHHA), said the past year has been a nightmare for the tourism sector. Sekhiba said she believes the worst is yet to come and some businesses might only start recovering towards the end of this year. “In the meantime, there isn’t much we can do and most of us are contemplating closing down before we get liquidated,” Sekhiba said. “At least this way employees will get their severance pays to take care of their families or to start something for themselves.” “It is tough, we don’t want to let people go. We understand that a lot more lives will be affected when one employee loses their job. However, tough decisions have to be made,” Sekhiba said. She said the closure of Mpilo Boutique Hotel shows “how bad things are in the tourism industry”. “We are saddened because Mpilo was the only one of its nature. Its existence had assisted the local tourism in terms of positioning,” Sekhiba said. “The only fighting chance we have to resuscitate this industry is through strategies that will market and position our country as a place people must visit.” “We have tried but it is time to be more aggressive in our efforts otherwise the future does not look so bright.” The Secretary General of the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Fako Hakane, said the tourism sector needs urgent help. “The closure of Mpilo Boutique Hotel has saddened us greatly. This hotel was our pride, it was fully owned by a Mosotho, employed Basotho and was the only boutique hotel the country had,” Hakane said. The sector that once employed over 3 000 employees is now employing only a fraction, with more jobs expected to be lost as more businesses close down. Mpilo opened in November 2015 as a top end hotel. Lemohang Rakotsoane

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