The Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Honorable Sidi Yayah Tunis has intimated that, Sierra Leone now has the plethora of Facilities to host International Conferences just like any other Country in Africa or the World over.
Speaking to this writer in his office at the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs (MTCA) on Monday 4th September this year, the young minister reiterated that, taking into account the sprawling infrastructural development in the country recently coupled with the over 3,000 bedrooms capacity nation wide, Sierra Leone can host any international conference with outstanding performance. “We can boast of having good roads network, 24 hours uninterrupted electricity and pipe borne water supply, and a host of other facilities back by our hotels operating in accordance with international best practice, I can emphatically proclaim that, Sierra Leone has the full potential to host international conferences of any nature” the Minister proclaimed.
Honorable Tunis was speaking in connection with the just concluded “41st World Tourism Conference” held in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda where the Minister was the head of delegation for the three(3)man delegation that represented Sierra Leone in that momentous occasion.
The three(3) man delegation were, the Minister himself, Honorable Sidi Yayah Tunis, Director of Tourism, Mr. Mohamed Jalloh, General Manager of National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone, Mr. Yassin Kolleh Kargbo. The conference was organized by Africa Travel Association (ATA) and Cooperate Council on Africa (CCA) in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board(RDB). The conference is held annually, last year it was held in New York, United States of America (USA). The conference brings together tour operators, corperate international and travel agencies from across the world together with policy and expertise in Tourism in Africa. This year’s conference was officially opened by the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagami.
The Minister said that, this is the second time he has attended the conference, last year in New York which coincided with the United Nations General Assembly Conference and this year in Kigali, “with the vast knowledge I have acquired from these two conferences, I will apply these ideas in my country so as to bolster the Tourism Sector and the Economy, that is more so I have always emphasized on standards and quality service delivery because Tourism is a competitive market, the more the hoteliers train their staff on how to properly take care of a guest leaving that guest with a sweet memory triggering him/her for a second or more visits, the better for the Tourism industry and the country as a whole” he noted.
The Minister furthered that, this year’s conference lasted for four(4) days and that, apart from the general conference there were several other meetings and plenary sessions of which he took part in three, namely:
*1. Tourism and Conservation and contribution of young people and technology in the development of tourism in Africa*
*2 Importance of safety and security for tourism development* and
*3 Unlocking the potential of tourism in Africa (the challenges and opportunities in African Continent)*
The Minister was also invited by the Rwandan National Television to expound on contemporary tourism happenings in Sierra Leone and also discuss the investment and tourism potential of the country.
Apparently, the Minister however maintained that, his Ministry, the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs (MTCA) and the National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone (NTB) are in sober discussions and collaboration with various Ministries, Departments and Agencies(MDAs) such as the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, Civil Aviation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation etc, to settle some burning issues that revolves around *landing fees, access to visa, direct flights, visa on arrival and visa exemption for certain countries*
He disclosed that, he will also engage the National Social Security and Insurance Trust(NaSSIT) on how to aggressively market the Bintumani International Conference Hall because the facility is of international standards, hence fit to host any international conference.
The Minister pointed out that, MTCA and NTB are in preparedness for the high season which will see an influx of Tourists visiting the Country, a period associated with booming profit for the hospitality sector of the Tourism Industry, the country’s economy as well as massive jobs opportunity for the youths.
The Minister concluded that, he has engaged the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development(MoFED) to fund the rehabilitation of the road leading to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.
Historically, It could be recalled that, Rwanda a small landlock country, in April 7th 1994 to July 1994 suffered a genocide which claimed the lives of 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans. The tiny nation has resurgence from it’s past woe and presently doing exceptionally well in all facets, within three(3) years the country shifted from 3,000 bedrooms to 9,000 bedrooms capacity. The country has massively embarked on Conference Tourism hence generating staggering amounts of foreign currencies. Ethiopia is also another Country that have emulated Rwanda in terms of Conference Tourism. Sierra Leone shares similar history with Rwanda, Sierra Leone was battered by the eleven years civil war which started in 1991 and ended in 2002, in 2014, the country was invaded by the Ebola scourge and just weeks ago, Landslide and Flooding ravaged and wreaked several parts of the Country. All these calamities and catastrophes, when the dead toll put together will exceed a million.
However, Sierra Leone is using the Rwanda Success approach in enhancing the development of Tourism and the Economy of the country.
© *Mohamed Alieu Bah*
*Communications Assistant Officer*
*National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone*