Monday, July 6, 2009

Skiing in Lesotho or Please don’t give us business – we would have to work!

Over the weekend, I went skiing for the day at Lesotho’s only ski slope, Afriski. I tried to book it about a week in advance over the telephone through the company’s office in South Africa, only to be told that all bookings had to be made 2 weeks in advance – even if no accommodation was required and you only want to ski for the day. It was explained to me that they could have a maximum of 250 people on the slope (there is only one slope).

It would be possible to just turn up, but you risk not getting being able to ski. Overall I was strongly discouraged from going although it was hinted that there was a chance that it might just be okay. I asked whether I could book 1 week in advance since they already knew how many people had already booked and would know if they had spare capacity. No I couldn’t – it has to be booked 2 weeks in advance. But if I want I could turn up after a 3 hour drive from Maseru but I might not be able to ski. Great.

In the end I (and everyone I went with) would be passing nearby anyway, so decided to go. The people at the ski slope welcomed us, and said that there was no problem. There were far fewer than 250 people on the slope, but presumably the lady I spoke with in the head office already knew that since most booking had already been made when I phoned.

She discouraged tourism in Lesotho and risked missing out on revenue for her business for very little reason as far as I could tell. Why did she do this? I would like an economic/social/psychological explanation, and all I can think of is that she was scared that someone would turn up and not be able to ski, and that she would get the blame. Far better to discourage all business and keep the clients away than to risk an unhappy client.

It reminded me of an episode of Yes Minister in which there is a hospital which wins all the awards for being the best run and cleanest hospital in the country and has the lowest number of deaths. The rub? There are no patients. And none of the medical or administration staff want any – how could the minister dare to risk such a well run hospital with such things as patients?! See a clip here.

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