Sierra Leone takes a step closer to become a popular tourist destination

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 September 2019:

The government of Sierra Leone took a bold step today, abolishing the requirement for all visitors travelling to the country to obtain visa at their country of embarkment, before arriving in Freetown.

Although many were expecting the government to waive or abolish visa charges as in other popular tourist destinations in the region, such as The Gambia and Senegal, this is seen as a step in the right direction, which could lead to more people traveling to Sierra Leone for holidays.

The Sierra Leone government is losing an estimated $100 million in revenue every year, as a result of very low tourist numbers.

This is due in part to the very high cost of flying to the country, as well as the exorbitant cost of hotel accommodation in most of the tourist resorts such as Aberdeen/Lumley Beach, and Tokeh Beach.

Although there are several other four star hotels in other parts of the city, such as the Country Lodge and Brookfields Hotel, these are not cheap either.

But hoteliers have very little choice in recovering their costs and make a small profit, than charging high accommodation rates, because of the very low visitor numbers in the country.

Low visitor numbers have also contributed to the decision of major airlines to stop flying to Sierra Leone.

The Gambia – a small country of about 2 million people compared to Sierra Leone’s 7.5 million, can boast of dozens of airlines  flying to the country every day, carrying thousands of tourists and visitors.

For a mere £500 (British Pounds), one can buy a seven days package holiday to one of the most beautiful beach resorts in the Gambia. This will include return flight from Heathrow airport in London direct to Banjul airport – a total of about six hours flight on either British Airways, Thompson Airways, Air France, or any of the other top, well-known airlines.

The £500 holiday package also includes free breakfast, access to Wi-Fi, and other amenities designed for a relaxing and enjoyable holiday in the Gambia. The cheapest return flight from London to Freetown via Paris or Amsterdam may cost about £600, excluding hotel accommodation.

With the Gambian Dalasi exchanging at 62 Dalasi to One British Pound and the Leone exchanging at Eleven Thousand Leones to a Pound, this should theoretically make holidaying in Sierra Leone much cheaper, but the economic reality on the ground is such that the reverse is sadly true.

There is no doubt the government of Sierra Leone must do more to improve the tourism sector to compete with countries like the Gambia. But today’s decision to abolish visa application overseas – though a step in the right direction, would require other policy decisions such as reducing airport taxes and opening up negotiations with international tourist operators,  if the government is to increase visitor numbers to Sierra Leone.

Some cynics are saying that the only reason the government has today stopped the sale of entry visas at Sierra Leone’s Embassies and High Commssions, is simplty to curb orruption and to directly raise revenue for the central purse.

5 Comments

  1. This is quite an impressive move/policy on the part of the Bio Government,all in the name of boosting the country’s image, on the back of which much needed foreign currency may be earned as well as increasing the possibility of some tourists turning out to be potential investors in one sector or the other.

    But we must be careful not to be blinded by any air of euphoria or utopia.The policy has some inherent dangers which could undermine the expected results unless we put solid infrastructures in place to ensure that those coming into the country as visitors are genuine,otherwise we shall start dealing with unsavory characters whose actions will tarnish the very image Bio is trying to carve for the country.In other words our security agencies must become truly professional in detecting activities initiated in the country that are both locally and internationally illegal, such as drugs trafficking,gun running, money laundering and religious fanaticism.

    The sleeping Attorney-general should help the government introduce the most draconian laws known any where for drugs trafficking and religious fanaticism which should include the immediate deportation of those caught up in such offences after they have served a jail term. We should also take a look at the Singapore model,where the authorities don’t joke with drugs traffickers.Let us don’t hide from our vulnerabilities.

  2. Again. JACK OF ALL TRADES AND MASTER OF NONE. However, it’s a good step moving forward with boosting tourism in Sierra Leone.
    GOD BLESS the Bio administration for bringing back SIERRA LEONE AIRLINES. OOPS!

  3. A country like SIERRA lEONE desperately needs a good and focused leader. President Bio in my opinion is not that leader. He is being misdirected by those closest to him. Development in tourism will never thrive in a poor economic atmosphere like ours.

  4. Its good to reduce the visa fees. But to get more tourists visiting Sierra Leone there are two problems: First, the politcal and ecomonomical situation at the moment (this will change?); second, I have already mentioned this – is the fact that during the main holiday season in Europe (june, july, august), you have the rainy season – sometimes with heavy rainfalls. so, the best season to visit Sierra Leone is from October to May. This will therefore be more for older people, pensioners or tourists wiothout children.

  5. And all this on the cusp of a major global economic crisis that will see tourism as a luxury for most. The timing has always been wrong for Sierra Leone and nothing has ever really been learnt. While it’s a great move, there are so many things that need addressing and I fear it’s too little too late in this economic cycle.

    Governments are almost always reactive, never proactive. The only saving grace is that the country will find it hard to go lower than it already has. This decision should have been taken decades ago but alas, not my circus, not my monkeys. It used to be when I lived there but I hope the population starts becoming more eager to help in the development of the country rather than fleeing to a “ready made” country which seems to be the usual trend.

    I had big plans for tourism but moved to another destination that signalled basic standards and a future. It will take much more than simply granting free entry to encourage tourists.

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