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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' 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.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid