Culture and tourism in Lesotho work hand in hand, as to maintain good relationships between the two, interrelated terms. Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, religion, concepts of universe and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.
Cultural tourism is a subset of tourism concerned with a country or regions culture, specifically lifestyle of the people in those geographic areas, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religions and other elements that help shape their way of life.
Culturally motivated, inspired and attracted tourists normally land in the country to consume the cultural tourism product of Lesotho and these are generally high income visitors who spend several nights at the destinations. Lesotho culture is a cultural tourism product because it represents an attraction in and of itself. Products can include visitation to museums, music festivals (Morija Arts and Cultural Festival).
Cultural tourism in Lesotho has rapidly flourished. Cultural tourists around the world are becoming increasingly interested in the culture, tradition and lifestyle of Basotho. Tourists who venture in are often motivated by anthropological desire to learn more about communities as well as to satisfy their need for cultural experience of the Basotho people. Cultural tourists have different choices of places they want to visit. Tourism concerned with culture has different typologies like heritage tourism, urban culture tourism, arts tourism, creative tourism and rural cultural tourism.
Most tourists who choose Lesotho as their primary destination, often engage in rural and creative tourism. This entails going to rural areas for special interests to participate in the activities together with the locals. They may participate in cultural activities like pottery, cookery, crafts and language learning. Tourists choose rural tourism because indigenous people are still found in rural areas and present their culture accordingly and also the landscape is beautiful. Staying with locals will help enhance the authenticity of their experience.
Tourism creates job opportunities for local residents in so many ways. Local communities produce artefacts such as crafts and others participate in dances, music and that helps make Basotho culture enduring through all these activities and so the future generation can know about it.
Culture is dynamic. The material cultural products such as clothing and architecture used by Basotho nowadays do not symbolize the real culture of Basotho people. Tourists make tours to cultural destinations to learn about the authentic culture of Basotho. These sites includes places like Thaba-Bosiu Cultural Village, Liphofung Nature Reserve. All these places hold the most venerated culture of Basotho that can be so appealing to cultural tourists.
Because of increased number of cultural tourists seeking cultural products, it has contributed to the production of pseudo products, thus, they practice what is best known as “commodification of culture” which is selling of culture for profit. Increased volumes of production of cultural souvenirs results in depletion of cultural resources. Culture of Basotho has lost its meaning because of tourism. For example, some locals criticize the commercialization of sacred sites as tourism dictates local worship schedules. Some see the selling and mass production of religious souvenirs as profaning their religious symbolization. Some sacred facilities are becoming used for the tourist pleasure as for religious observance, losing their significances.
Tourism can also enforce change in the culture of indigenous people and this arouses hostility in some of the locals while others adapt to it. Tourism leads to changes in artefacts, customs, rituals and architecture of people. Designs of some of the products change only to please the tourists and everything becomes tourist oriented. Locals especially the youths are keen to adapt to the lifestyle of the visitors, of which they adapt even the things that are taboos in Basotho culture.