August 2019

A revitalised and vibrant Sierra Leone is hoping to entice visitors with a responsible tourism focus

Cradled feet away in the arms of Mama P, his surrogate human mother, Caesar the baby chimp toys his tufty hair before casting me a stare so cute and innocently wide-eyed that my heart squeaks.
This being Sierra Leone’s Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, though, home to 89 orphaned chimps, such arresting interactions come served with a healthy dollop of education.
“We have a moral obligation to protect the chimps – they may be extinct in 10 years,” warns my host Aram Kazandjian, Tacugama’s manager. His team is working tirelessly to protect the critically endangered western chimpanzee, from establishing new reserves and “wildlife corridors” to tackling bush-meat poaching. To help raise funds, the sanctuary offers packages in its homely onsite lodges, backed by activities such as yoga weekends and film nights. It’s all rather inspiring.
Tacugama is at the vanguard of the West African country’s attempts to develop responsible tourism in the wake of the crushing Ebola epidemic of 2014 and its earlier civil war. The government is acknowledging and backing the move, recently using the visit by renowned chimp expert Dr Jane Goodall to announce it had adopted the chimp as the new symbol for tourism.
Now, backed by its cuddly new symbol, recently appointed representation agency Kamageo and a catchy “Sierra-ously Surprising” tag line, it has UK visitors firmly in its sights.
Natural treasures feature highly in my April visit, not least the birdlife. Salone, as the country is nicknamed, is home to 640 recorded species, including the great blue turaco. Top spots include Gola Rainforest national park – where I keep an eye out for sooty mangabey monkeys, forest elephants and birds including white-necked picathartes – and meet the team aiming to raise the park’s profile through ventures such as chocolate production tours and a new hiking and biking trail.
Nearby Tiwai island, set in the Moa River and part of the same ecosystem as Gola, lays claim to the highest concentration of primates in the world, its habituated Diana monkeys being the undisputed stars. Despite overnighting on the island, they’re a no-show on my guided dawn walk, although a galago and some red colobus monkeys are among those making an appearance. My hunt for an elusive pygmy hippo on a dugout canoe trip down the Moa proves similarly fruitless, although one canoe in the convoy thinks they see a tell-tale rump melt into the forest so we claim it, feebly.

Tourism Ministry Updates Media on Activities

Tourism Ministry Updates Media on Activities
At a press conference held in the conference room of the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs on Monday 5th August 2019, the Minister, Dr. Memunatu Pratt and team updated the media on the progress made so far in re-branding the country’s tourism in a bid to attract more tourists.

Speaking during the meeting, Dr. Memunatu Pratt said that she is impressed and pleased with the turn out of the media at the meeting, adding that in the business of Tourism, the Press plays a vital role in disseminating the facts about the touristic sites and rich heritage of the country. Tourism, she maintained is all about marketing and this has been their drive in the past months, which created the need for the numerous travels undertaken by the Ministry.

She furthered that upon assuming office as minister, she took time to review all the work done by her predecessor and saw the need to embark on a re-branding of the industry so as to woo tourists to the various tourist attractions the country offers. During their travels they had fruitful discussions with various tourist stakeholders in several parts of the world.

Madam Pratt further explained that tourism involves international and domestic tourism. On the domestic area, several moves have been made to engage line ministries and agencies on the development of the sector. The ministry of energy was engaged on the provision of electricity to the Lumley beach area and she is proud to disclose that certain sections on the beach now have electricity from the national grid and moves are on the way to provide the beach with solar powered lights to illuminate the beach at night.

In the area of security, they are working with the Sierra Leone Police and the Ministry of Internal Affairs for regular patrol teams on the beach. Her engagement with the Aviation authority in the country has resulted in the reduction of ticket prices and the possibility of visitors getting visa on arrival at the airport.

Government, she maintained has through the Ministry of Finance removed the tax on tickets, thus the high cost of traveling will be reduced and more people encouraged to come to Sierra Leone. She noted that the low cost of air ticket has made other countries attractive to tourists. This development in her ministry will therefore encourage more tourists coming into the country and possibly encourage investment on various aspects of the industry like transportation and other businesses.

Minister Pratt further disclosed that Lumley Beach will soon be declared an entertainment zone and will give opportunity to the entertainment industry to thrive. In this regard they are looking at the possibility of levying fees for access to the Lumley beach area during weekends. What is collected from this toll will be used to pay for the cleaning of the beach front, which is littered with plastic and even medical waste.

She averred that climate change and environmental issues affect the Tourist industry as sea weeds will show. Her ministry will be taking giant steps to decentralise its offices across the country and staff will be posted there. This she described as having tourism at the local level.

On the International front, Madam Pratt maintained that Sierra Leone is now represented at the level of the UNWTO. Their visits to several parts in the world have resulted in the World Bank ready to fund development projects of the industry. In this regard, the Bank funded their trip to Finland to learn more about how tourism works in those countries and to see what they can replicate in the country to develop the industry.

With a beam, the country’s Tourist Iron Lady then disclosed that frantic efforts have been made to improve the infrastructure of the ministry of which the conference room in which the meeting was taking place is a testimony, adding that plans are on the way to construct a building at the back of the compound to accommodate more staff. She officially launched the opening of the refurbished conference room.

Fatmata Abe-Osagie, General Manager of the National Tourist Board, in her contribution also buttressed the ministers take on the travels done by various officials of the ministry. This she maintained is part of the rebranding of the country and the touristic attractions the country has.

Successes have been recorded from those trips as it brought some 30 travel journalists to the country to assess it touristic capacity and further resulted in the visit of 8 African Americans who traced their DNA to Sierra Leone and eventually culminating in the handing over of Sierra Leonean passports to all of them by President Bio.

Sierra Leone is now being captured in top international magazines with positive news. Their tour in Canada resulted in interest in capacity building of the industry. The country now has the 1st tourism Traveltainment magazine, which was published in February, adding that they now have a website promoting current information about Sierra Leone Tourism with huge following, a new Tourism App and the 1st Tourism information office at the museum.

Madam Abe-Osagie further disclosed that collaboration with Photographers Union resulted in a National Photographers Trade Fair promoting the country’s culture and in collaboration with the Agriculture Ministry also resulted in the hosting of the 1st Agro- Tourism and Culture in kabala.

Director of Culture in the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Mr. Jalloh, said that the ministry has reviewed its act and drafted another one which has received cabinet approval and is at the Law Officers Department for final drafting and will be tabled in parliament by the minister for enactment and will replace the Monument and Relics Act and eventually culminate in the establishment of a National Heritage Commission and also another bill on entertainment which will also see the establishment of the National Entertainment Commission.

He further disclosed that work has been done in Bonthe resulting in the restoration of the clock tower at Bonthe.

That part of the country, he averred, has a lot of tourist attraction, as it is at Bonthe that the first European church mission was set up in the country, the UBC mission and the Church of England is found there, another first in the country.

He also stated that the historic and original building of PZ is also there.
Plans are on the way for the development of relics at Bunce Island, where the first slave port, where professional slaves exited for sale abroad is located and other ruins.

A jetty is presently being built at Bunce to facilitate access to the Island. He stressed that need for capacity building of Sierra Leonean craftsmen as renowned sculptors like Marco and son are now dead, so as to keep the knowledge through the ages.

With funding from Action Aid and the World Bank there are plans to construct the first ever National Performing Arts gallery at Aberdeen and an agreement with Bollore to build cinema hall, performing stage for the mobile theatre for artists to launch albums and this will mean leaving the National Stadium for purely sporting activities.

The Action Aid funding will provide for the construction of a 600 capacity hall and a smaller one too in Bo for performing arts and they are poised to construct an eco-tourism site in Kabala with funding from the World Bank.

The meeting was climaxed by a question and answer session and the official declaration of the refurbished conference open by the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs

Tourism Minister Takes Lead in Cleaning Lumley Beach

Tourism Minister Takes Lead in Cleaning Lumley Beach

One of the most outstanding ministers in President Bio’s led government of New Direction, Dr. Memunatu B. Pratt who happens to be the former Head of Department for Peace and Conflict Studies at FBC and now the current Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs was with her fellow Sierra Leoneans as a pace setter to clear the beach from seaweed and plastics that is destroying the beauty of the environment.

She is calling on all Sierra Leoneans to join hands in keeping the beaches and its environment clean and attractive, as she desperately works to give the tourism sector a new facelift to attract tourists from all over the world.

“Sierra Leone is blessed with natural beaches and lots of tourist attraction areas,” she said.
When speaking to ordinary people and the press at the beach the minister stated that her ministry has the responsibility to keep the beach and its environs clean being that these areas are of touristic attraction, adding that there are very big challenges facing the maintenance of a clean beach and this has to do with waste management. This is adversely affecting the beach, she stressed.

Dr. Pratt stated that the sad story is that when people from the east, west and central of Freetown throw away their garbage into the sea, these are brought to the beach by the waves and that most people use the rivers and waterways to empty their toilets, which also end up on the beach.

She said that as a government they have been doing their very best to ensure they do what is needed to be done when it comes to cleaning and making the beaches very attractive to tourists.

She continued that even though these are the challenges all over the world, there is the need to address this waste problem. Some 100 youths were called to join in that exercise as the ministry lacked the man power to clean the beaches and the resources to buy tools and pay workers.

She said that the main challenge is that of plastic bags and plastic containers that big factories and small scale industries are using to package their products ranging from drinks, water etc.

Dr. Pratt said that her ministry intends to meet with the Ministry of Trade and those big factories and small scale industries so that they will put modalities in place for them to help in the cleaning of such places, as there are policies all over the world that cover how they are supposed to pay for their waste and support waste management activities.

Another challenge she highlighted is the beach traders that are illegally selling around the beach areas without paying anything to the ministry or the tourist board and are not making any effort to clean the area in which they trade around the beach.

She continued that all those traders that are trading illegally, especially around the Family Kingdom area, should leave those places, as the ministry and the Member of Parliament of that constituency have provided for them a special place to do their business.

The minister encouraged all Sierra Leoneans to take care of their garbage as their attitude towards waste management could help in the improvement of tourism in the country.