By Alimatu Fofanah-OVP Communications Unit.
Delivering the Keynote address, the Hon. Vice President commended the Minister of Tourism, Mrs Memunatu Pratt and her staff for such a laudable effort in giving the country’s Tourism sectors a facelift.
Tourism he said is one of the sectors they as a government have been following because it is among one of the critical areas that the ‘New direction’ government wants to use to diversify the country’s economy, move Sierra Leone from a mineral dependent economy to a new area that they can tap in for more additional resources for the development of the nation.
He said the Tourism industry is very closed to the new administration and that it is a sector that the President wanted to see developed in order to boost the country’s economy.
VP Jalloh stated that, he has no doubt that the Tourism In-Flight Traveltainment Magazine and the Tourist Information Office are a critical step in boosting the sector
He added that, it’s an indication that the tourism sector is one of the sectors that the government of President Dr. Julius Maada Bio wanted to move forward in order to make Sierra Leone more attractive to stimulate economic growth, create job opportunities and make Sierra Leoneans themselves enjoy the beauty of their country.
Dr Jalloh went on to state that, it is part of the ‘New Direction’ drive to identify where they can spend additional resources to turn around the country’s tourism sector as they believed it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world.
“When you look at the productive nature of the tourism Sector and the critical innovations that are taking place in that sector and what it could bring in terms of economic dividend, I believe Sierra Leone has to tap into that sector.” He reiterated.
He maintained that, Sierra Leone has a lot to offer in the area of attracting tourist and business people. The offers he said ranged from wild life, parks, beaches to historical sites.
He furthered that, the tourism sector over the years has been over shadowed by critical challenges that have no doubt want to slow down the growth of the country that is capable of being on the map as a tourist attraction destination.
VP said as a government, they were able to take critical steps to overcome some of those challenges.
He outlined some the critical steps they have taken in order to boost the country’s Tourism sector. This he said among them, they were able to implement a Regulatory Framework to ensure that the prices of Air tickets to fly to Sierra Leone will become cheaper, the reduction of taxes on air travel to ensure that flying to Sierra Leone will become reasonable and the implementation of a visa on arrival.
He said that, they took up such ventures to attract more tourists and business people to the country. In the area of infrastructure, he said the government of President Bio is investing resources to develop infrastructure and boost tourist sites in the country.
In her statement, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Mrs Memunatu Pratt told the gathering that, as a ministry, they have accomplished one of their milestones of rebranding, re-imaging Sierra Leone and also, change the negative perception of the country and make tourism a household name for people to know that tourism is alive and is being awakened from slumber.
She said the big role of their recent effort has to do with how they will inform, attract tourists and investors and how to get Sierra Leoneans to understand domestics tourism.
To do this, she said, they realized that information is vital hence the opening of the tourist Information office for people to get more information on the sector and the country in particular.
She went on to talk on the sector’s partnerships with a lot of Airline Agencies, Banks and international Agencies. She also talked on the symbiotic relationship between Tourism and Aviation.
The Chairman of Civil Aviation, Mr Patrick Kaikai in his statement said the launching of the magazine and commissioning of the Tourist Information Office have a positive impact on the Aviation industry. Tourism and Aviation, he said, complement each other and that they depend on each other hence the need for collaboration and cooperation with each other.
The representative from the Private Sector, Managing Director of Rokel Commercial Bank, Dr Ekundaya Walton Gilpin in his remarks thanked the government of His Excellency for taking up such journey to empower, renovate, give stories about tourism in Sierra Leone to the people around the world.
He said the initiative to launch the magazine and commission the Tourist Information Office is an opportunity to start making people to be attracted to Sierra Leone as the country has the human resource capacity to nurture and give hope to Sierra Leoneans to make them understand that they have a positive story to tell about the country out there.
The Secretary Board of Airlines, Mr Edgar Lacle in his speech thanked the Minister and her team for such a positive move in the right direction.
He called on Sierra Leoneans to be proud of their country as the In-flight Magazine will be added to the world list of In-Flight Magazines.
The magazine he said will help tourist and investors to discover, identify the beauty, uniqueness, rich tradition, culture, development strides, economy and politics of the country and her people.
Giving the purpose of the gathering, the Acting General Manager of the National Tourist Board, Mrs. Fatmata Abe-Osagie said the rationale behind the launching of the magazine and opening of the Tourist Information Office was to rebrand Sierra Leone.
The Chairman of the ceremony, the Deputy Minister of Information, Hon. Solomon Jamiru in his remarks, commended the Minister and her team for such initiative.
He said today marks another milestone in the history of the country, as the country has got a magazine for tourists that will be placed in airlines, given to the country’s embassies and other missions abroad, financial players and public sector players.
He said the magazine encapsulated very interesting readings, stories and information about the tourism sector in the country.