It is a truism that along the entire West Coast of Africa, Sierra Leone has the most exotic pristine beaches, sea front and spectacular tourist attraction sceneries that cannot be found in favored tourist destinations such as Banjul, Dakar, Ivory Coast, Benin and Accra.
In an exclusive interview with the Acting General Manager of the National Tourist Board at her Lumley Beach office, Mrs. Fatmata Abe-Osagie whilst outlining the strides made so far in her less than six months in office working in close collaboration with the Minister of Tourism maintained that strong political commitment is needed to implement, for example, the Lumley Beach master plan.
Madam Abe-Osagie explained that the New Direction Government of President Julius Maada Bio expects economic and social benefits from tourism development such as: –
• foreign exchange earnings
• the development of areas with no other immediate possibilities of expanding economic activity
• creation of employment opportunities
• a boost for the local production of the goods and services consumed by the tourists
• more tax revenue for the State
• the integration of national cultures and societies and safeguarding of the national cultural identity from foreign culture influences
• reasonable returns on investment in the sector
• the promotion of the true image of the country to attract holidaymakers and foreign entrepreneurs as part of the drive to step up international political and economic cooperation through local tourism as was seen done by the Tourism ministry during the past Christmas in Bonthe Island and Kabala
• encouraging fair distribution of national income and creating new markets for consumer goods
• providing additional infrastructure and amenities that will encourage and support the tourist industry as well as benefit local and national interests
It is in pursuit of these benefits that the previous Government and this one have identified tourism as a priority sector for development.
However, Madam Abie-Sogie spoke of the difficulties they have with controls, such as permits that were issued before she and the New Direction Government came into office for building structures along the Lumley Beach and how she has determinedly put a moratorium on the granting of further licenses.
Reviving the country’s tourism sector to pre-war years remains an uphill task, with the country still suffering from the stigma of the war and the Ebola virus outbreak of 2014 and 2015.
In the discussion with Madam Fatmata she affirmed the Ministry and the Board’s firm and unwavering commitment to transforming the country’s tourist industry into a robust, dynamic and profitable national enterprise but stressed that there are hurdles to climb over including hefty infrastructural investments across the country in new facilities and tourism enhancing activities.
Madam Fatmata recommended that investors should not only look at Lumley beach but consider the many other attractive locations in the western area and the interior of the country for development.
She called the attention of the Lands Ministry to the need to reserve land for future touristic investments,.
TOURISM DEVELOPMENT POLICY AND STRATEGY
• Earning and not number of arrivals to be the principal measurement for growth
• The private sector is to be the principal supplier of tourism services and facilities
• Development to enhance the long-term image of Sierra Leone as quality up market destination
While Beach and Sea will remain the principal holiday product, they will be supplemented by inland scenic, wildlife and cultural attractions that will offer a “total African experience”.
Extension of the tourist season
The overall development objective for Sierra Leone tourism concentrates on endeavouring to meet the needs of tourists by ensuring the provision of tourist amenities, facilities and services of appropriate quantity and quality.
Aware of the great impact of tourism activities on the environment and the rapid damage an uncontrolled tourism development can cause to the environment, government is very conscious of the importance of the conservation and protection of the environment in the development of the tourism resources of Sierra Leone. In this vein, government adopted a policy of developing Sierra Leone as middle and up market destination and to ensure that the environment is maintained in a condition, which corresponds to the needs of the tourists, the local habitants and to national objectives.
PROSPECTS FOR TOURISM IN SIERRA LEONE
With the emphasis put on tourism development by government, Sierra Leone stands to benefit from the current favorable global tourism trend, as the Western European market is showing signs of steady growth. The considerable North American market potentials will also begin to be tapped as soon as Airline services to the region are established.
With tourism still in the infancy in Sierra Leone, exploiting the international tourist industry can be a major long-term advantage. In adopting in planned and regulation development approach, Sierra Leone, by and large is still in a position to expand its tourism sector in a way which would emphasize on environmental conservation with a view to enhance the quality of the overall tourist products. This will no doubt, contribute substantially toward improving the standard of living and quality of life of her people.
Tourism in Sierra Leone is highly beach oriented. The beach areas of Sierra Leone fall into seven groups:
(i) Sulima, between the Moa and Mano Rivers. A relatively accessible area with good beaches.About 11km in length.
(ii) Turner’s Peninsular, an immense beach bar with an unbroken length of 100km, which appears to have a continuous quality beach.
(iii) Sherbro Peninsular, a similar beach bar, some 40km long on the south of Sherbro Island.
(iv) Shenge, a stretch of perhaps 15km of attractive beach in the Shenge area
(v) Freetown Peninsular, having a 40km length of coast facing South West from Aberdeen to Kent with exceedingly attractive and varied beaches by the Peninsular Mountains.
(vi) Lungi Beaches, along the Bullom Peninsular.Approximately 15km in length.
(vii) Scarcies Estuary, a beach bar of some 8km in length to the south of the Scarcies estuary.
The whole Western Coastline from Aberdeen to Kent comprises a series of excellent beaches with a variety of character. The southern shore from Kent to Tombo also has some small beaches of character, but beyond Tombo the coastal area becomes mud flats and swamps. The North Eastern Coastline has small beaches as well.