the beaches and forests offer visitors an enchanting slice of simple
tropical paradise, great strides have been made to increase the
stock of quality accommodation
was a time, not so long ago, when Sierra Leone attracted some 100,000
tourist arrivals a year, mainly Europeans. They came to enjoy the countrys
unique natural beauty, to sit on secluded white sandy beaches, to climb
through unspoilt rainforests and to wade through refreshing waterfalls.
came to experience first-hand the countrys warm, friendly and hospitable
people, and discover why Sierra Leone was one of the most popular destinations
in the whole of west Africa.
In some ways, nothing has changed. The people are still as receptive as
ever to outsiders and the landscape remains a lush tropical paradise.
Yet most of the visitors have now gone because of the former war, and
much of the tourism infrastructure needs rebuilding after years of conflict.
of the first steps in restoring Sierra Leones image is to open the
countrys doors once again to tourists and business visitors. The
government is starting from scratch, going back to basics to entice foreign
travellers to return to this small and enchanting corner of Africa. A
new tourism development act has been put in place, modelled after the
one in the Gambia, a country that successfully attracts some 1.5 million
visitors annually. Sierra Leone remains in contact with Banjul tourism
officials to make sure plans are successfully implemented. The Ministry
of Tourism and Culture is looking to create a solid and stable tourism
climate, highlighting the countrys unique cultural diversity.
the private sector tourism is nil’ Chernor Jalloh
of Tourism, Dr Chernor Jalloh, says that the industry is
still in an embryonic state, but thinks that it can regain its position
as one of the premier tourism venues in the region. Sierra Leone
was a paradise, he says. In the whole of Africa, in fact,
we had the best national dance troupe in terms of heritage, and in the
varieties of cultural dances. It was first class. We are trying to rehabilitate
this cultural image.
Sierra Leone is indeed a melting pot of tribal, religious and cultural
influences. Today, 60 per cent of the population belong to the Temnes
and Mendes tribes. The third major ethnic group is the Limbas, the first
to settle in Sierra Leone. The Mendes live in the south of the country,
while the Temnes, apart from the north coast of Freetown, occupy the centre.
There are also sizeable Lebanese and Indian communities. In a country
with so many different religious influences, Sierra Leone stands out as
a place of great tolerance between the large Christian and Muslim populations,
which co-exist peacefully. President Kabbah is in fact the countrys
first Muslim leader.
tourism development strategy includes decentralising cultural activities
to the regional level in order to utilise all local talents. The aim is
to identify the best talents throughout the land and then bring them together
in Freetown to promote the rich and diverse culture of Sierra Leone in
rehabilitation of the tourism infrastructure is well under way. The opening
of the new Bintumani Hotel adds another quality hotel to the Freetown
skyline. Alongside the Lunghi International Airport Hotel, the Cape Sierra
Hotel and Cape Lighthouse due for completion this year the
capital now offers a choice of superior accommodation as well as varied
are countless attractions in the country. The restoration of the beautiful
12km Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary in February illustrates the governments
intentions. It boasts a high concentration of primates, many threatened
with extinction throughout west Africa, and is a source of national pride.
Until war broke out in 1991, it was a model of conservation for the region.
park has been established at Outamba Kilimi, about 200km from Freetown,
where a wide range of animal species can be found, including elephants,
monkeys, chimpanzees, rhinoceros and baboons.
The Bintumani Mountain and Lake Sonfon in Koinadugu District, about 1,945
metres above sea level, and the Tingi Hills in the Kono District, offer
visitors mountain sports and other adventures. Islands such as Banana,
the Konakridee-Yeliboya Wetland and the Turtle Islands are also well worth
a visit. The National Monuments and Relics Commission has 18 declared
sites of historical importance.
new tourism development strategy places the private sector in the driving
seat. Tourism without the private sector is nil, says Dr Jalloh.
Tourism is predominantly a private sector affair. The government
only provides basic infrastructure like roads and communications.
new generation is set to discover one of the most popular destinations
in the whole of west Africa
UK has a key role to play. As well as being a target market for potential
tourists, it is also a source of investment. The two countries are well-connected
by air through Sierra National Airlines, which operates a twice-weekly
service from London Gatwick. Dr Jalloh says he wants to see British companies
invest in all sectors of the economy.
More specifically, in the tourist industry, we would like to see
British firms come in to invest in hotel construction, entertainment and
Leone is looking to regain its place as one of the leading destinations
in west Africa. Tourism is expected to play a vital part of the reconstruction
process, bringing in valuable hard currency and supporting new jobs.
to the International Labour Organisation, about 8,000 jobs in Sierra Leone
are dependent on the tourism industry, a figure that is expected to increase
considerably in the next couple of years. The aim is simple, says the
Minister: To make Sierra Leone once more the paradise of west Africa.