Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 February 2019:
Last Tuesday, Sierra Leone’s vice president – Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh launched the country’s new tourism promotion brochure – a highly colourful and glossy publication, called the ‘Tourism In-Flight Traveltainment Magazine’.
Tuesday’s launch of the Tourism In-Flight Traveltainment Magazine also marked the opening of the country’s Tourist Information Office, based at the National Museum in Pademba Road, Freetown.
Speaking at the launch, the vice president commended the minister of tourism – Mrs Memunatu Pratt and her staff for their laudable effort in boosting the country’s tourism sector.
Tourism he said is one of the key sectors that the Bio led New Direction government is supporting, so as to diversify the country’s economy from its dependency on minerals export, create jobs and increase the nation’s wealth.
Vice president Jalloh said he has no doubt that the Tourism In-Flight Traveltainment Magazine and the Tourist Information Office, will make great impact in promoting the country’s many attractive sights and facilities to tourists.
Dr Jalloh said that the government is looking to identify where they can spend additional resources to turn the country’s tourism sector around, as they believe it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world.
“When you look at the productive nature of the tourism Sector and the critical innovations that are taking place in that sector and what it could bring in terms of economic dividend, I believe Sierra Leone has to tap into that sector,” he said.
He also said that Sierra Leone has a lot to offer in attracting both tourists and foreign investors, and these opportunities include – wild life, natural parks, beaches and historical sites.
The tourism sector he said, has over the years been over shadowed by critical challenges that no doubt slowed down the economic growth of the country, rather than put Sierra Leone on the global map as an important tourist destination.
But as a government, he said, they will take steps to overcome some of those challenges.
The vice president spoke about some of the steps they have taken so far in order to boost the country’s tourism sector, such as implementing a Regulatory Framework to ensure that the cost of flight tickets to Sierra Leone will become cheaper, the reduction of taxes on air travel to ensure that flying to Sierra Leone become reasonable and competitive, and the implementation of a visa on arrival policy.
He said that the government has made these changes to attract more tourists and business people to the country.
In the area of infrastructure, he said the government of President Bio is investing resources to develop infrastructure and boost tourist sites in the country.
Minister of tourism and cultural affairs – Mrs Memunatu Pratt said that as a ministry, they have accomplished one of their key milestones in promoting tourism in Sierra Leone, by re-branding and changing the image of the country – changing the negative perception of the country and make tourism a household name for people to know that tourism is alive and is being awakened from slumber.
She said that the biggest challenge for her ministry is about how to inform and attract potential tourists and investors, as well as get Sierra Leoneans to understand and help promote domestic tourism.
To do this, she said, they realised that access to information is vital, hence the opening of the Tourist Information Office at the National Museum in Pademba Road, Freetown, for people to find out about sites, places, attractions and facilities of interest in Sierra Leone.
She spoke about the sector’s developing partnerships with Airline Agencies, Banks and international Agencies, as well as the symbiotic relationship between tourism and aviation.
The Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, Mr Patrick Kaikai said the launching of the Tourism In-Flight Traveltainment magazine and commissioning of the Tourist Information Office will have a positive impact on the Aviation industry. Tourism and Aviation he said, complement and depend on each other, hence the need for collaboration and cooperation.
Managing Director of Rokel Commercial Bank, Dr Ekundaya Walton Gilpin thank the government for taking up this journey in promoting Sierra Leone’s tourism industry to people around the world.
He said that the launch of the Tourism In-Flight Traveltainment magazine and opening of the Tourist Information Office, is an opportunity to attract tourists to Sierra, as well as give hope to Sierra Leoneans and the understanding that they have a positive story to tell about their country.
The Secretary of the Board of Airlines, Mr Edgar Lacle, thank the minister and her team for such a positive move in the right direction. He called on Sierra Leoneans to be proud of their country; and said that the In-flight Magazine will be added to the world’s list of In-Flight Magazines.
The magazine he said will help tourists and investors to discover, identify the beauty, uniqueness, rich tradition, culture, development strides, economy and politics of the country and her people.
Acting General Manager of the National Tourist Board, Mrs. Fatmata Abe-Osagie, said the rationale behind the launching of the In-flight Magazine and opening of the National Tourist Information Office was to re-brand Sierra Leone.
The Deputy Minister of Information, Solomon Jamiru, said “today marks another milestone in the history of the country, as the country has now got a magazine for tourists that will be placed in airlines, and will be available at all of the country’s embassies and other missions abroad.”
I would like to mention another aspect in this tourism debate. One big problem to develop more tourism for Sierra Leone is the long and heavy rainy season, from April/May to end of October. In this time, there are the long holidays in Europe and it will be difficult to convince young families with children to come Sierra Leone.
The main group of people you should watch for are older people and pensioners. Most of them have money and time to travel the whole year.
I acknowledge the efforts of the Government in promoting tourism, among other developmental projects. I suggest that, in addition to previously mentioned infrastructures, let there be projects in ecotourism, improving sanitation and security.
Let the Sierra Leone embassies and consulates overseas have sections to promote tourism and business investment.
I have read your comments and response with great interests, also sincerely appreciates the moves by the Vice President and the Ministry. In as much as I love tourism and have been lucky to explore few of the best tourists attraction centers on earth during my time at the Asia Pacific, such as Bali/Denpasar Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, etc, I have also been fortunate to live and visits the Jinja/Nile river in Uganda, Mombasa in Kenya and other safari sites, Zanzibar/Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, and currently residing in the Congo DRC.
All the potentials those mentioned and other nations possesses are abundant in Sierra Leone; the Agro forestry, lovely beaches, good food of all nature, wildlife, culture, hospitality and many many many more… However, beside the few mentioned challenges such as financial flexibility (mentioned by Brother James and Sahr), aviation policies, the state and partners old school patterns of business; there are tremendous catastrophic factors in need to be sorted out. These and more includes:
1. Ministry of Lands Chaos: Land frauds, grabbing and illegal distributions and allocations of tourism land sites among state and the land/forestry personnel/Officials. This is one of my case:
I bought ten acres of land in 2009 at the Kent junction where the mini police post/checkpoint is located, to replicate the Bali beach like structures. Also bought another four acres at Burreh town beach front for similar purpose from the same Senior Lands and Forestry officers but were all fraud. Said lands had been sold to several other persons by the same group of people. The occupants are busy building sub standard residential houses instead of tourism infrastructures.
2. Sensitisation and orientation of Sierra Leoneans to be aware of and accept the industry. (Tourism died in the mid 80s, which is over 30 years)
3. Conducive environment for the Tourism industry (Security, Transportation, Harassment by extorting, begging or any sort, respect for diversity, integrity among all stakeholders, and much more.
4. Encouragement and motivations of Local Partners: Soft loan from Banks and Duty free on Tourism imports as well as task concessions on tourism business.
5. Marketing, Ease of Access from Airport to Mainland and several challenges.
Apparently, together we must rapidly identify the challenges and seriously prioritise the basic needs for the industry, otherwise, we will rather be placing the cart before the horse.
I will keep sharing comments on ideas from good friends and colleagues who are great partners in tourism industries within their nations. Cheers.
I’ve been to Sierra Leone several times and really enjoy the country. However, one thing badly needed for foreign tourists is a way to get cash at banks via credit/debit card.
Presently tourists have to carry enough cash for their entire trip, and this is something that is unusual in a world linked by the internet, where banks can easily make charges against credit/debit cards. It is a problem linked with fraud that hopefully the Sierra Leone government and banks can work out with the credit card companies. Thanks for reading.
Thank you very much James for your insight. Sierra Leone has a cash-based society. It’s good for the country and it’s citizens, but not for tourists. To be honest, credit or debit card system has far too long been neglected just like the tourist industry itself. However, the government can for example put pressure on the banks or set up regulations for banks to accept travelers cheques or prepaid cards.
This will be a very good start till the credit/debit card and ATM systems are properly established and upgraded.
It seems awkward, but these two options will be the easiest solution for now. Anyway, the government has to come with some sort of solution for this very important concern for tourists.
Till a solution is found, the tourists just have to come with the cash or receive money via the money bureaus.
Thank God for Sierra Leone and everyone who is helping in any way possible to push the nation forward.
Happy faces there.
Thanks a lot Vice President and madam Minister.
The best take from this launch is what the minister had to say and I quote – “She said that the biggest challenge for her ministry is about how to inform and attract potential tourists and investors, as well as get Sierra Leoneans to understand and help promote domestic tourism.”
The minister knows very well that the more the flights to the country. the cheaper the flight tickets will become.
So, if you want to attract more people or tourist to fly to the country, you should have the strategy to attract and motivate them. As the minister rightly said, this will be challenging.
I have some points that can help with attracting tourists. Political stability and security is paramount. Then, the ministry should have very serious and trusted partners in potential tourist countries and video marketing to name a few.
We hope to see many flights to Sierra Leone and see the travelling costs drastically reduced.
Smart move Madam Minister. Keep it up.
Congratulations Sierra Leone!
I congratulate the initiative of the Vice President in his effort to bring tourists to see what great things we have to offer. For too long there has been a hit and miss approach to tourism, now with this new initiative of the tourism office and a more professional approach, I’m sure this will hopefully kick-start an economic boom, as tourism is a win win for vitally needed jobs, new revenue streams, investment opportunities for both local and overseas investors. I have already been discussing with potential markets to come and see what is on offer.
Good news, then keep the fire burning!