By Foday Moriba Conteh
With support from the World Bank the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs (MTCA) and the National Tourist Board (NTB) have on the 7th March, 2022 held a one day workshop on Tourism Investor Perception survey report at Shangri La Hotel, Lumley Beach Road, Freetown.
The study aimed at gauging the perception and interest of current and potential investors in the sector, increase understanding of the factors that have and will influence the investment decisions of foreign and local investors and develop a tourism investment’s strategy for the Government of Sierra Leone.
In his opening address, the Permanent Secretary of MTCA, Andrew L. Sorie said their approach to Sierra Leone’s tourism development was through an empirical approach that determined who and what works for the sector. He stated that tourism is driven by the private sector and the private sector is driven by investors, hence it is imperative to understand what stimulates investors’ interest in Sierra Leone.
Articulating the purpose of the workshop, the Director of Tourism, Mohamed Jalloh, expressed gratitude to the World Bank for funding the activity under the Sierra Leone Economic Diversification Project and also the PCU for coordinating activities under the tourism component of the project.
He mentioned the harsh blow COVID-19 had on the sector, disrupting consistent progresses that were made at the time, which he said warranted them to rethink a shift from growth paradigm to a sustainable paradigm and ensure that the future is more innovative.
He said at the end of the workshop participants would have had a thorough understanding of the results of the tourism investor perception survey and have the opportunity to make inputs to the recommendations proffered by the consultant.
The CEO of Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), Sheku Lexmond Koroma said they were happy to be a part of the process, noting that the hospitality sector was considered to be very important to the economic development which can only be realized through the growth potentials of the sector.
The Country Manager of the World Bank, Abdu Muwonge said he was honoured to be a part of the workshop as he was very passionate about the transformation of the economy through tourism. He reiterated that the perception survey was part of the Economic diversification project of the World Bank, noting that the sector cannot operate in isolation, hence there must be an integration of other sector in order to harness the benefits of tourism.
In her address, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt, emphasized that Government had prioritized the tourism sector under cluster 2 in the Medium Term National Development Plan for diversifying the economy and development growth, creating employment opportunities for both formal and non-formal sector workers in the labor market, a support that contributed to the rapid growth of the sector as one of the promising destinations within the West Africa Sub region. She underscored the impacts made by the sector as indicated in recent global tourism statistics and how such progress has been hindered by COVID 19.
She maintained that the workshop would offer participants the opportunity to make constructive contributions and recommendations to upgrade the said document. She added that the report was believed to create the enabling environment that will contribute towards achieving the overall goals of the sector, and that it will assess the economic and revenue potentials of the tourism industry with the aim of identifying possible revenue stream and encourages private sector investment in the industry to spur sustainable growth, as well as other development benefits to the country and its citizens.
The program continued where the consultant, Dr. Samuel Bayon outlined the findings of the survey and draft strategy followed by interactive group sessions and presentations on different questions that were pertinent to the development of the survey. The consultant assured that the inputs gathered will be documented and integrated to the formulation of the strategy.