Sierra Leone has once again participated in the World’s leading International Travel Trade Fair (ITB) in Berlin, Germany. The ITB is a platform for trade visitors, business partners and tour operators across the globe. It is aimed at encouraging individual countries to exhibit their touristic potentials in an effort to attract meaningful investors.
During the exhibition where Sierra Leone’s touristic and business potentials were extolled, the General Manager of the National Tourism Authority, Cecil J. Williams said it is a forum worth participating as according to him, it creates an opportunity to not only display products and provide relevant information about Sierra Leone, but also to establish networks with business partners and to update themselves about the trend in the tourism sector.
Mr. Williams said their participation in this year’s trade fair is to provide aid to investors and inform them about the rich potentials that Sierra Leone has in the business sector. This is why government has also established legislative instruments to provide incentives for investors – the Tourism Act and Finance Act 2011.
Considering the high unemployment rate and efforts to improve the socio economic development in the country, Mr. Williams believes that tourism is the answer to those many underlying problems. He noted that the industry has a multiplying effect touching on every facet of society. The reason, he went on, was because of its people oriented scheme which unlike other mechanised industries like Minerals and Agriculture, encourages everybody from various discipline. “….tourism does not only bring economic benefit but enhances the social status of the people. Once employed in the tourism industry, your status is improved,” he noted, adding that recent developments ranging from increase in employment rate and revenue collection lend credence to the aforesaid.
It could be recalled that the industry has created employment to approximately five thousand people, with a total contribution of $ 36.9 million into the country’s national coffer. Tourists arrivals in the country have equally increased from 33 thousand to 52 thousand in recent times.
The General Manager further disclosed that other major development activities will soon be undertaken by two Hotel chains – Radison Blew and Hilton Hotel. They will construct 200-bed Hotels in the country, in an effort to increase the capacity of the hotels in the country. These developments he said are good news for operators who are interested in going to Sierra Leone.
Mr. Williams described the relationship between the National Tourist Board and the private sector as vital. “That is why we are here with a number of private sector participants. They are the main suppliers of services and our role is to facilitate,” he affirmed.
In another development, the tourism sector has secured a $ 3million fund to enhance human resource and capacity building, sector governance review and eco-tourism policy diversification.