STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF TOURISM AND CULTURAL AFFAIRS HON. MEMUNATU PRATT AT THE SIERRA LEONE PRESS CONFERENCE IN BERLIN GERMANY AT THE INTERNATIONAL TOURISMUS BOURSE (ITB) 2019. WEDNESDAY 6TH MARCH 2019
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to address this gathering at the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show; ITB Berlin is the foremost business platform for global touristic offers bringing together operatives and investors within the travel, tourism and hospitality Sector. Let me hasten to thank the organisers, UNWTO, ITB, for jointly organising this all-important event. My appreciation is also extended to the German government and the people of Berlin for being an exceptional host bringing together participants from different countries globally.
Please permit me to also bring you warm greetings from His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio who is very passionate about Tourism and its commitment to make Sierra Leone an enviable destination.
Tourism is among one of the critical areas that Sierra Leone’s ‘New direction’ government has identified as one of the three priority sectors and wants to use it to help diversify the country’s economy from mineral dependency. The aim is to boost the country’s economy, create job opportunities, and instill pride among Sierra Leoneans regarding the beauty and appeal of their country.
The specific policy actions covers (i) Improving the Policy and Legal Environment; (ii) Developing Historic Sites; (iii) Developing the Infrastructure;(iv) Promoting Marketing and Improving International Image; (v) Skills Development and (vi) Diversification of Tourism Products.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to give you a brief background about Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is located on the West Coast of Africa with an area of 73 326 sq metre and a population of 7.396 million with a GDP of USD$ 3.77 billion in 2017. Agriculture is the main economic activity (subsistence) with export earnings provided by diamonds, rutile bauxite and iron ore. The Tourism Sector is promising and a potential contributor to the socio-economic development of the country. Sierra Leone is a unique and fascinating destination blessed with a landscape of extraordinary beauty, rich and diverse tropical wildlife, miles of pristine, unspoilt white and golden beaches with an interesting history and heritage, the climate is ideal for winter, sun seekers.
These attributes have attracted the attention of major Tour Operators, Travel Writers and the country has been classified as one of the 10 top tourist destination in 2009, by Lonely Planet Magazine and as described in the 2009 Bradt Guide.
The country’s tourism asset portfolio comprises (31) protected areas with unique wildlife including the Pygmy hypos, Chimpanzee, jungle elephant, rare species of birds, 18 National Cultural Heritage Sites one of which is the Bunce Island which is linked to the country’s rich past Slave Trade and home for returning Slaves. Opportunities for big game fishing and bird watching attract the high spending eco-tourism clientele.
The country’s proximity to Europe of only (6) flying hours, (8) hours from the United States and (3) hours within the sub-regions, places the destination in an advantageous position of no jet lag for tourists and business clientele.
Tourism launch is three-fold – to change the negative perception of the country to the outside world, to attract more tourists and business travelers and to raise awareness of the value of wildlife tourism for the country’s economy. Additionally, it highlights the positive story to tell about the country’s heritage and offerings.
It is about time for more people to know about Sierra Leone, because we believe they will be pleasantly surprised. Therefore, we look to your assistance.
Our country has come a long way in recent times. In addition, from a tourism perspective, we know it needed to. We have grabbed your newspaper headlines far too often, and for all the wrong reasons, in the past.
We do not disguise it; our country has been blighted by first a civil war and then the threat of Ebola. However, as a nation, we are delighted to say that we have moved forward. The entire country is stronger, safer and healthier than it has ever been.
We are now ready to throw open our doors and welcome travelers from across the globe to visit our amazing country, which has many wonderful surprises in store for the more adventurous traveler.
I will highlight just a handful of the top reasons why you should visit Sierra Leone, some of these reasons are:
- World’s most pristine beaches
- Beautiful and breathtaking landscapes
- A top destination for travelers seeking new, exotic experiences
- Close proximity to Europe
- Hospitable and friendly people
It is also important to emphasize that our tourism infrastructure is still in its infancy, despite plans are on the way to develop the tourism infrastructure. I am pleased to inform you that the Government under the New Direction will construct a bridge that will connect the airport to the rest of the country, develop and upgrade five ecotourism sites; the quantity of accommodation options is expanding, whilst the quality of hotels and lodges continues to improve.
We have identified numerous high-quality tourism attractions to be found only in Sierra Leone, meaning that there is huge appeal for those who seek vibrant culture, unique wildlife or just relaxing on a beautiful beach.
Unlike some countries in the Africa, Sierra Leone is not a finished, highly polished tourism destination. In addition, we know that for many travelers this simply adds to its charm and appeal. Sierra Leone does have a wealth of worthy attractions and visitors can enjoy a sense of pioneering, as they will be able to claim they are amongst the first to arrive.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Currently in Sierra Leone, the economic environment is conducive, infrastructural support such as better road networks, improved energy, stability and improved fiscal and physical incentives are indications of better days ahead. Investment opportunities are eminent. Other important reforms in the pipeline include:
- the provision of is a on arrival for selected target markets
- the review of the different cost elements of flight tickets geared towards reducing or eliminating excessive costs,
- the implement measures aimed at easing the process of doing business in Sierra Leone
- provision of light infrastructural development for tourist attraction sites
- preservation of cultural and historical sites including Bunce Island a 17th century slave fort considered as one of the most authentic in the sub-region
- the protection of the ecosystem and biodiversity through collaborating and empowering local communities to protect their resources
- Harnessing the creativity of our youths by investing in fashion filmmaking, art and crafts, music pageantry, sports etc.
- Expanding the tourism offer from the predominantly hospitality –based to include culture, ecosystem and biodiversity
Sierra Leone is peaceful – country and people – according to the Annual Global Peace index
Whether you are a travel journalist, tour operator or investor, I encourage you to listen to the ideas of my team and myself and we look forward to hosting you in Sierra Leone in the very near future.
COME TO SIERRA LEONE – AND YOU WILL DISCOVER THE SIERRAOUSLY SURPRISING