Liberian National developmental plan “Liberia Rising/Vision 2030” aimed at addressing the remaining constraints to growth so that the country can achieve middle-income status by 2030 is on course. The vision 2030 or the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) also supports initiatives that allow a greater proportion of the population to share in the growth and experience to achieve quality of life and consider the usage of natural resources of the country as a mean for bringing development to every sector of the economy.
It is the hope of ordinary Liberians that in order to realize this National Vision, development will consider all aspects of the economy including Conservation and Tourism.
Why is tourism so important to global economic development? Rapid and continuous growth over the past twenty years has made tourism one of the world’s most significant sources of employment and of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Tourism particularly benefits developing economies, where most of the sector’s new tourism jobs and businesses are being created. This rapid growth has encouraged many developing nations to view tourism as a key component to their economic portfolios.
Tourism as defined by the United Nations is activities of people traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for at least one night and no more than one consecutive year for leisure, business, and other purposes. Is Liberia therefore qualified for Tourism in this definition?
The answer is yes! Liberia’s environment is yet intact in so many aspects: Land outlook, rivers, lakes, mountains, weather, lagoons and biological diversity.
The Liberian people’s culture and language all qualify them for this important industry.
But why have Liberians not ventured into the industry for sustainable development? In the recent publication of the government’s development agenda (Vision 2030) the crafters wrote: “The Liberian economy is largely dependent on extractive industries (timber, rubber, minerals, etc) and agriculture. Thus, environment and natural resources clearly underpin Liberia’s social and economic development. The environment is the base for mineral wealth and must therefore be effectively managed to ensure sustainable livelihoods and economic development and growth. The linkage of environment, development, and poverty must be appreciated if Liberia is to achieve sustainable development.”
This is rightfully stated, but where are we in making this a reality when our environment is not being used for sustainable development except aiming at the extractive industry that depletes the resources. Why not consider sustainable tourism?
Tourism offers opportunities for economic and social development where few other economic opportunities exist.
Tourism jobs are geographically widespread and they can be created with lower capital investment unlike in other sectors.
Furthermore, the large variety of jobs in the sector offers employment opportunities for people lacking formal qualifications that can thereafter acquire skills and advance their careers.
Tourism sector creates jobs that help conserve the nation’s rich flora fauna (plants, flowers vegetation). The opportunity to achieve economic and social development for communities using what those communities themselves own while at the same time helping to conserve the country’s unique natural environment is a better offer for Liberia, a society that is under developed.
It will help in providing jobs for women and girls that are more vulnerable in our today’s Liberia.
As unemployment is high, presently put at about 30%, there is a need to create increased employment opportunities. Tourism is a major source of foreign exchange (and via domestic tourism the retention of foreign exchange within the country).
Tourism has a substantial economic multiplier effect and generates tax revenues for Government. It has proven to augments the GDP of many poor African countries including The Gambia, which heavily relies on tourism and peanuts, and it can also do it for Liberia.
The potential of Liberia’s tourism sector is enormous. Liberia is endowed with 350 miles of pristine coastline beach. It also offers a wide range of unique and exciting natural, cultural and historical resources that will, if planned and managed effectively, attract increasing numbers of tourists.
When tourism is sustainable there are benefits for all including travelers, companies providing the tourism, and to interests within the host community. Let say, the people of Sinoe taking over the ownership of the SAPO National Park and setting up a local committee to manage the Park, there will be employment and development own and initiated by the people of Sinoe County.
A step by step process will see the people of Grand Cape Mount and the Lake PISO join, the Kpatawe Waterfall and sure, they will be followed by several others.
When local communities are involved in sustainable tourism, they enjoy improved local employment opportunities, increased opportunities for local enterprises, improved infrastructure and access to services, and increased participation in decision-making. This is democracy and this is development for the people and by the people!
Liberia, like many other African countries, has majority of the people who are poor and generally depend on natural ecosystems for their livelihoods. Most of these communities are directly dependent on the use and trade of natural resources for their livelihoods, but there are no policies on Sustainable Tourism which could help enhance the livelihood alternatives of these people.
So how far is Liberia from the Global Tourism industry? …..To be continued