Tourism: Another undeveloped asset for Sierra Leone

Tourism: Another undeveloped asset for Sierra Leone

By Martin Malamah-Thomas

Tourism is one of the potential sectors for economic growth and development in Sierra Leone. The country has many natural and cultural attractions that can appeal to different types of tourists, such as beaches, islands, mountains, rainforests, wildlife, historical sites, and festivals.

However, tourism in Sierra Leone also faces many challenges, such as low awareness, negative perception, poor infrastructure, weak governance, limited capacity, and lack of investment. To boost tourism by 25% in the next five years, the Sierra Leone government may need to do some of the following actions:

**Develop and implement a strategic plan** for tourism development that is aligned with the national vision and priorities, and that involves consultation and collaboration with various stakeholders such as the private sector, civil society, local communities, and development partners.

**Promote and market Sierra Leone** as a safe, attractive, and diverse destination for domestic and international tourists, using various channels such as online platforms, social media, events, media campaigns, and partnerships with airlines, tour operators, and travel agencies.

**Improve and diversify the tourism product** by developing new attractions and activities that cater to different market segments and niches, such as ecotourism, cultural tourism, adventure tourism, and business tourism.

**Enhance the quality and standards** of the tourism services and facilities by providing training and certification for tourism workers and operators, enforcing regulations and codes of conduct for the industry, and ensuring compliance with health and safety protocols.

**Invest and upgrade the tourism infrastructure** by improving the accessibility and connectivity of the tourism sites and regions, such as roads, airports, ports, railways, and telecommunications. Some of the specific infrastructure that needs to be developed are:

Roads. Many of the tourism attractions in Sierra Leone are located in remote or rural areas that are difficult to reach by road. The road network in Sierra Leone is inadequate and poorly maintained, affecting the mobility and comfort of tourists.

Airports. The main international airport in Sierra Leone is Lungi International Airport, which is located across a river from the capital city Freetown. The airport is outdated and lacks modern facilities and services. The transfer from the airport to Freetown is also costly and time-consuming.

Ports. Sierra Leone has a long coastline with many islands that can offer unique tourism experiences. However, the port infrastructure in Sierra Leone is limited and underdeveloped, affecting the accessibility and safety of maritime transport for tourists.

Railways. Sierra Leone used to have a railway system that connected some of the major towns and regions in the country. However, the railway was dismantled during the civil war and has not been restored since then. A railway system could provide an alternative and efficient mode of transport for tourists.

Telecommunications. Sierra Leone has a low penetration of internet access and broadband services compared to other countries in the region. The quality and reliability of the telecommunications services are also poor. This affects the communication and information needs of tourists.

These are some of the actions that the Sierra Leone government may need to do to boost tourism by 25% in the next five years. Of course, there may be other factors that are also important or have potential for impact.

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