News / Africa

Sierra Leone Working to Attract Tourists

A tourist wades in the water at a beach in Sierra Leone
A tourist wades in the water at a beach in Sierra Leone

Multimedia

Audio
Fid Thompson

Once a booming tourist destination for Europeans looking for a small stretch of tropical paradise, Sierra Leone is better known these days for its post-war struggles to develop. But many here believe that the tourist trade is just about to take off again.

The clean white sand, warm ocean and tropical backdrop of the No. 2 River Beach is a short if bumpy ride south of Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown. A well-known secret among expatriots and locals, many feel this beach symbolizes Sierra Leone's tourism trade - little-known, unspoiled, beautiful, and slightly difficult to get to.

Jim Dean, an American expat who works for a USAID-funded project here, says this beach is special.

"It's kind of an unspoiled area. If you pan in on the hills behind us, this is all the Western reserve, this is what's left of the rainforest in this part of Sierra Leone," he explained.  "So all of us who live here and really enjoy this environment would like to see it promoted as an eco-tourism destination rather than turned into another Jamaica with big hotels, restaurants and bars."

But for the community association running the No 2. River Beach Resort, the weekend crowds from Freetown are only just enough to sustain their business.

Daniel Macauley heads the association that has successfully reinvested profit back into the business and into developing the nearby village. High youth unemployment and a beautiful beachside setting prompted the community to set up the resort fifteen years ago. Now the association wants to expand.

"Our future plans is actually to make sure that this resort becomes an eco-lodge - so that it will be internationally known, people will be coming from outside, that will make more money obviously and it will also be part of means of youth to be employed in this community," he said.

Macauley says United Nations and NGO workers come in smaller numbers these days. So he hopes to attract international tourists to the resort instead.

But challenges for Sierra Leone's tourism industry remain significant. Road infrastructure is poor and prices are often relatively high for transport and lodging. There are few charter flights and a return ticket on a commercial airline can cost over $1,000.

Bimbola Carrol runs a local tour company, Visit Sierra Leone, and an online forum that addresses traveler's concerns about going to Sierra Leone.

"For tour operators such as myself, I think the biggest challenge undoubtedly is the image that Sierra Leone has outside of the country," he said.  "I think during the years of the conflict a lot of negative images came out and it is very difficult to change those opinions that people have held about Sierra Leone."

The country's civil war ended almost eight years ago, but many Westerners still associate the country with images of the conflict's violence and brutality. The 2006 Hollywood film Blood Diamond - set during the war - became the reference point for millions of viewers.

Though nowhere near the height of the 1980s tourism boom, the Tourist Board says numbers are steadily rising.  More than 5,000 people came to Sierra Leone on holiday last year. The first guidebook was published last year and two UK-based tour operators are now organizing trips to Sierra Leone.

Caryl Canzius is a tourist visiting from Toronto, Canada. As she watches the sun set over Freetown's Lumely beach, she says Sierra Leone surprised her.

"I'd say my first impression people here are very kind, the land is beautiful, the beaches are absolutely amazing," she said.  "I was one of those people that was a little afraid but now I've been here I've seen that it is quite stable and very safe as well. So pleasantly surprised."

Bimbola Carrol says he is confident that in a few years time, Sierra Leone will be back on the tourism map. On the wall behind him, a poster depicting pristine beach advises, "Discover Sierra Leone Before Everyone Else Does".

The Tourism Board says tourism currently generates approximately $20 million. As the country moves from post-conflict to investor-friendly destination, tourism could have a significant impact on the economy of one of the poorest countries in the world. If only they can convince people to come.

Related report by VOA's Scott Stearns

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid