Quite recently, the Liberian government held its second consultation workshop with a high-powered delegation from the International Trade Center to develop a coherent plan of action for its untapped tourism sector. Once developed, the sector is expected to become a key source of income and employment.
The government of Liberia also views the development of tourism as an opportunity for presenting its national and local heritage to the world.
Considering how much the tourism sector is contributing to the world economy, we at LIB Life hail the government for this farsightedness.
However, we have come to notice that the government’s plans for the tourism industry solely focus on the positive side, paying little or no attention to the potential pitfalls — the negative side.
This alone in the long run will undermine its once beautiful strategies as well as causing problems for locals where these tourist attraction sites are located.
While we support this worthy cause, unfortunately, tourism can be a key source of problems.
One problem tourism can cause is that it undermines local tradition and cultural practices. Tourists wearing traditional costumes when they visit traditional sites depreciates the value of the culture.
This kind of behavior by tourist wears down traditional values because they are not aware of how to abide by local practices such as religious, moral laws and other taboos.
Tourism as an industry also often leads to environmental damage (direct and indirect) such as pollution and garbage jams; and sites such as ancient buildings find it difficult to cope when tourist traffic becomes high.
If an area has high potential of attracting tourists (e.g. beaches, lakes, and other beautiful natural environments), the risk is that rich ecosystems are ruined, causing the lost of natural habitats since it comes under serious threat that then diminished the original appeal to both tourists and developers.
While the tourism industry around the world helps create jobs, most of the jobs it creates are at the lower levels such as bar and restaurant attendants, which tend to offer little opportunity for advancement.
Moreover, tourism jobs are not long lasting, but seasonal; and when the season is over, these sited become deserted for months again.
Often times, tourism mostly benefits those living in or around the sites; and when tourism becomes successful, governments tend to economically depend on it, neglecting other sectors of the economy.
In addition, tourism can cause increase in the prices of staple commodities as businesses try to capitalize on tourist dollars, which puts locals at a cross road, especially those who already cannot afford the basics.
Moreover, it is not only the ecosystem that is affected if a vast area falls within a potential tourism site. Locals are also affected when they have to relocate elsewhere to make way for development.
Other negative aspects of tourism that Liberia must plan to prevent or mitigate include, the rise in prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases; proliferation of narcotics and other contrabands; poaching for animal parts (of elephants and other endangered species), among many others.
Therefore, looking at some of the aforementioned problems tourism can cause, it is advisable that the government of Liberia develop a strategy that anticipates and mitigates these risks, empowers its people as well as the country’s economy, and protects the environment.