The Marketing and Public Relations Manager, National Tourist Board, Mrs. Fatmata Abe-Osagie, has disclosed to Awoko that they have drawn up a year’s programme to enhance integrated project to boost tourist attraction sites.
She said that the sites include Tiwai Island, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Wara Wara Mountain, Banana Island and No 2 River, adding that although these tourist sites are in existence but more value needs to be added to them to make them more attractive as this will encourage more people to visit them thereby raising revenue for the country.
Mrs Abe-Osagie compared tourism in Sierra Leone in the past, saying that in the 80s, many tourists visited the country, but that at the break of the war and even after the war, people stopped coming because the country became less attractive.
“The Ministry of tourism, the Tourism Board and the private sector are putting a lot of effort to ensure that tourism is developed in the country.”
Mrs. Abe-Osagie also said due to partnership, the Board, the Ministry and Private Sector have been able to facilitate the visit to Sierra Leone of the Prince Herbert II Cruise Liner which is a plus development for the tourism industry and the country.
She explained that the coming of the Cruise Liner will send a clear message that the country is peaceful and stable.
Out of a total number of 119 people onboard the cruise liner, 109 were able to get off to visit certain tourist areas. Mrs Abe- Osagie said that those that visited these areas will in turn advertise the tourist sites in the country, as they will tell others what they saw so that they come one day.
The Marketing and Public Relations Manager said since tourism is all about exposing and getting other people interested in the country, as it thrives on peace and stable environment, she said they have been sending messages all round and this message can only be sent out through proper mechanism which is why they have engaged lots of promotional activities.
“We have also brought both international and national tour operators to see and access the tourist attraction sites. We have invited travel writers who will write good things about the country but especially on our tourism. We have also been attending Trade Fairs in different countries to sell the tourism industry to other countries.”
Umaru Woody, Planning and Product Development Manager, National Tourist Board, said that the visit of the Cruise Liner facilitated by Visit Sierra Leone will attract more tourists to the country.
He said that tourism business is not good as it used to be because the image of tourism has been dented during the course of the war, but they have been able to attract tourists. “It is only when we attract the leisure market that we will say the tourism industry has started to boom but for now we are only attracting business tourists, conference tourists and special interests.
Overall, the Sierra Leonean tourism industry is currently positioned as a relatively difficult destination which is yet to be ‘discovered’ by potential tourists. The country has had the highest growth rate in tourism-generated receipts between 2001 and 2004. But one must remember that it faced a sharp downturn due to the violent conflict in the late 1990s during which a negative growth of 17 per cent was marked in the tourism sector.
Sierra Leone continues to have the lowest tourism receipt despite its impressive growth in this sector since 2001. In 2004, it earned only 50 million dollars from tourism which is much lower than a much smaller country Gabon. When normalized by population, per capita tourism receipt in Sierra Leone is only 11 dollars, compared to 58 dollars in Gabon and 32 dollars in The Gambia. Larger countries like Ghana and Senegal have per capita tourism receipts of 22 and 25 dollars respectively.
By Betty Milton