The National Tourism Board in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism & Cultural Affairs recently participated in the ‘Le Monde de Paris (MAP) Tourism exhibition in France.
Sierra Leone participated in this exhibition because “we want to meet and update stakeholders in the Tourism industry about the situation in the country viz a viz plans to reactivate the industry, infrastructural developments and to emphasize the current stability and security situation in the country-an important element for tourism development,” said Cecil Williams, the general manager of National Tourist Board.
The exhibition is held annually wherein tourism generating countries and destinations interact with a view to tapping the tourism potential and opportunities; with stakeholders serving as purveyors of the respective services offered.
Mr Williams said that Sierra Leone’s visit was facilitated through the Integrated Framework Tourism Project under the supervision of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the Ministry of Trade & Industry serving as a focal point.
He pointed out that the decision to support Sierra Leone under this project was as a result of the recommendation in the Diagnostic Trade Integrated Study (DTIS).
Mr Williams said that in addition to funding Sierra Leone’s participation at the event, the project also made available funds for the production and printing of publicity materials and other travel expenses and for this he expressed appreciation to the pool of funding and participating Agencies that supported the Integrated Framework Tourism Project. Key among them was the International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Finance Cooperation (IFC), UNCTAD, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Bank and World Trade Organization.
He said that it would not be long before the country begins to receive high end tourists again, which will invariably enhance the socio-economic development of the country.
Speaking about the exhibition, the Tourism Board General Manager said that the Sierra Leone stand attracted large groups of the French public seeking updates about the country in general and tourism in particular.
He said they also sampled some of the county’s locally made food stuffs and snacks, while promotional literatures such as posters, brochures, visitor’s Guide and other publicity materials were widely distributed depicting Sierra Leone’s pristine and untapped tourism resources and attractions.
Mr Williams revealed that their have been immediate outcomes after the exhibition. He pointed out that there are plans to host two groups of French Tour Operators and Travel Writers/Journalist on familiarization tours to Sierra Leone to enable them to have an independent and objective on the spot assessment of the country in May and November this year.
The exhibition attracted over 100 countries from Europe, Middle East Africa and 150 Tourism companies such as Tour operators, Travel agent, Hotel chains, Airlines, Travel Writer/Journalists and other stakeholders in the development and promotion of the tourism and hospitality Industry.
Mr Williams said that France is very strategic to tourism in Sierra Leone because France had accounted for about 90% of tourist arrivals to Sierra Leone in the mid 1980s to mid 1990s.
He related that French investors in collaboration with Sierra Leonean counterparts contributed considerable investment in the provision of Hotels, Resorts and other facilities such as Africana Tokey Village, St Micheals Lodge, Lakka Cotton Club and Mammah Beach Garden Hotel.