During a two-day stakeholder consultative meeting, held on the 23rd February, 2023 and 24th February, 2023, the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, with support from the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), validated the review of the development of the Tourism Act 1990. Bringing together all the relevant stakeholders, the meeting was held at Njala Venue, Lumley Beach Road, Freetown.
The cardinal objectives of the review were to empower the Ministry and its constituent bodies, to create employment opportunities, seek the well-being of Sierra Leoneans, ensure that all natural, cultural and historical heritage, national parks, monuments and relics sites are responsive to tourism growth, support the establishment of Tourism Circuit Zones and maintain international standards of excellence.
In the amendment document, the bill emphasizes strong public private partnership with the Hotel Association, gender mainstreaming, agriculture, transport and the creation of functional institutions with clearly defined roles and responsibilities among others. The validated document when enacted into law will become a holistic National Tourism Act 2023.
Giving the opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Edward Kwame Yankson noted that in revitalizing the tourism sector they are to take deliberate actions to improve the international image of Sierra Leone, diversify its marketing and most importantly improve the policy and legal framework. He said the two-day consultative meeting sought to review the three decades long National Tourism Development Act, 1990 and transform it into a holistic document that meets the demands of contemporary global tourism architecture that is tailored for the people of Sierra Leone.
In his statement, the Director of Tourism, Mohamed Jalloh maintained that the current Act ,which will be 33 years old this year, does not make mention of words like E. Tourism, digital platforms, climate change, gender mainstreaming, sustainability, roots tourism and crisis management, issues, he said, will be captured in the new Act.
He stated that the development of the Tourism Act 1990 was formulated and enacted to establish the National Tourist Board. Key institutions pertaining to the tourism and hospitality industry were left out with detrimental impact resulting to confusion, overlap of functions and weakening of the sector to strategically position itself. He said the review of the development of the Tourism Act focuses on achieving increased opportunity for Sierra Leoneans, provision of attractive support for SMEs, digitalization of the sector, mainstreaming of gender and youth among others.
In her closing courtesy, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt thanked stakeholders and participants for being part of the validation process saying that they will form part of their data base going forward. She appreciated the EIF for supporting the process. She emphasized that the Act will be the national legal framework for tourism in Sierra Leone that puts tourism at the center of national development. She said with the new Act, they would no longer struggle to make a case for access to roads to the beaches, water supply to their facilities, and other bottlenecks they are facing. She stated that the validation process was the semi-final product of their stewardship to President Bio in making tourism a growth sector.
She maintained that the aim of the Bill is about consolidating their work and ensuring that they have an Act that speaks to itself. Before getting to this stage, Dr. Pratt said that they conducted extensive research work on all the relevant laws in Sierra Leone that have connection to tourism, undertook a tourism census with Statistic Sierra Leone, hence the exercise was driven by data, expert reports and international perception. She noted that they upheld the relevant issues in the 1990 Act and brought forward those that require changes.
Representatives from MDAs, private sector development partners, civil society, the media, traditional institutions, women associations and tourism educational institutions made valuable inputs that were incorporated in the documents before it was validated.