By Foday Moriba Conteh
As part of their efforts to enhance sustainable tourism, cultural and climate change promotion in the country, the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs (MTCA) together with the National Tourist Board (NTB) with support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Global Environmental Finance (GEF) has on Thursday 18th and Friday 19th March 2021 engaged journalists and Civil Society Organizations on Digital Promotion and Rebranding Messaging Development aimed at enhancing sustainable tourism, cultural and climate change promotion in Sierra Leone, a programme that was held at the Family Kingdom Resort, Aberdeen in Freetown.
It could be recalled that between September 10th and 17th 2020, the Tourism Ministry and NTB, with support from UNDP/GEF, organized a workshop on adapting to climate change and enhancing the role of civil society and the media in promoting sustainable Eco-Tourism in Sierra Leone.
It was against that backdrop that the Ministry and NTB engaged civil society, media/bloggers to a tourism messaging development workshop to showcase the country’s tourism potentials by developing effective tourism messaging to increase knowledge and awareness of touristic destinations.
In her statement, the General Manager of the National Tourist Board, Fatmata Osagie, stated that despite the great opportunities that are within the tourism sector and the efforts made by the Ministry and the Board to promote sustainable tourism is the country, they are challenged with fake and misleading information that have the tendency to create negative feedbacks of touristic destinations, hence maintaining that the objective of the workshop is to adopt joint marketing and promotional activities with the media, bloggers and civil society by creating effective tourism digital messaging in promoting Sierra Leone as an attractive destination.
She noted that with the realization that tourism could contribute positively to the development of the country and in view of the Government’s commitment to improve the local and international image of Sierra Leone, it is imperative that the National Tourist Board and its supervising Ministry engage in partnership with the private sector, tourism stakeholders, Media practitioners, CSOs, Influencers etc. for the promotion and rebranding of Sierra Leone tourism.
She furthered that the objective of the Tourism Messaging workshop is to provide a sequel from the first workshop on Promoting Sustainable Tourism Development by adopting joint marketing and promotional activities with Media Institutions/ Bloggers/ Civil Society Organizations by creating effective tourism digital messaging in promoting Sierra Leone as an attractive travel destination with a view to: increase awareness of the destination, raise the profile of the country, showcase its beauty and stability, thereby promoting the country’s image plus increase international tourists arrivals and increase tourism contribution to the economy.
In her address, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt said that one of the dreams of the New Direction Manifesto and the Medium Term Development Plan Cluster Two is to make Tourism one of the diversified sectors of the economy, stating that the negative portrayal of Sierra Leone’s image has been a huge challenge. She called on participants to forget about the negatives and cascade the positive images that make Sierra Leone unique.
She maintained that the participants present have the responsibility to ensure that Sierra Leone in shown to the world in a positive light, thus rebranding Sierra Leone and also promoting the tourism sector.
The Minister added that digital champions that have huge followers should use their platforms to promote the image of Sierra Leone saying things are changing in the Ministry and putting out the positive images and messages that would lure people to Sierra Leone is key in rebranding the country.
In her presentation, on Messaging, Rebranding and Digital Marketing and Promotion the lead consultant, Yeama Thompson, noted that branding is the marketing practice of actively shaping someone’s brand underscoring that branding is very important as it helps to break through clutter and grab people’s attention.
She noted that the aim of applying branding in the tourism industry is to differentiate a tourism destination from others and creating a unique brand image of certain places.