Harry Kemble (Travel Weekly): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 December 2022:
A group of tour operators have started a week-long familiarisation trip funded by the UK government in Sierra Leone.
Tour operators – including UK-based Native Eye, Naturetrek Reef and Rainforest Tours and Large Minority – were all welcomed on Monday (November 14) by the Invest Salone initiative.
The UK government-funded private sector development initiative is aimed at European and USA markets and reflects the country’s tourism board’s strategic priorities.
Tour operators will visit a Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary (Photo below); a slave trading fortress on Bunce Island; and Tiwai Island, where there are chimpanzee and monkey populations.
The visit – the first of its kind for five years – will finish on Saturday (November 19), with a tourism seminar that local industry representatives are scheduled to attend.
Tour operators can share feedback and discuss current and new opportunities for Sierra Leone’s tourism sector.
Recent Invest Salone research found that 80% of the tour operators interviewed had never visited Sierra Leone, where civil war broke out in 1991 and lasted for 11 years, and had limited knowledge about the country.
Invest Salone consultant Avril Pratt said that the familiarisation trip was intended to encourage tour operators “to promote the destination to their clients”.
“We are delighted to host the first familiarisation visit to Sierra Leone in five years and look forward to showcasing all that Sierra Leone has to offer,” she said. “Tourism is potentially a major engine for job creation in Sierra Leone and a driving force for economic growth and development.
“It can also provide opportunities for inclusion and education – and contribute to preserving cultural heritage and the environment.”
She added: “Increased tourism activities will create opportunities for existing businesses to improve revenue by providing services to tourists as well as open opportunities for new businesses.
“We hope the familiarisation trip will provide the tour operators with an experience which will help them become advocates for Sierra Leone and spread the word about everything our country has to offer.”