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By 2025, Liberia is expected to generate US$120 million from its tourism industry.
The ambitious target comes as the country unveiled its official tourism brand and strategy, which predicts that three years from now, the country "will be an up-and-coming, fast-growing and increasingly sought-after travel destination among international nature and adventure sports enthusiasts."
The strategy, which rests on getting tourists informed and encouraging them to visit Liberia, delivering on the brand promise, predicts that by 2025, Liberia will be an up-and-coming, fast-growing, and increasingly sought-after travel destination among international nature and adventure sports enthusiasts, making Liberia a destination for at least 80,000 visitors.
At the same time, the country is expected to benefit from 2,000 sustained jobs across the tourism value chain and a revenue of US$120 million.
All this prediction is forecasted by the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) and its partners, after embarking upon tourism branding as a means of marketing Liberia’s emerging tourism sector which has long remained untapped.
It says local communities and entrepreneurs in various districts and towns will benefit increasingly from tourism.
Tourism connects people to Liberia's unchained heritage as Africa's oldest republic; the point break waves of the Atlantic; the energy radiating from our cultural confluences, the mystique of Africa's last virgin rainforests and the intriguing charisma of great apes, pygmy hippopotamus, exotic birds, and other forest beings.
But the sector has not been fully recognized for its potential until now. And in its unseen role, it has been a catalyst for trade, an engine for growth, a creator of jobs across the length and breadth of the country despite years of government neglect.
Still, reaching the US$120 million mark in three years, especially given that the sector has been one of the hardest-hit sectors globally due to COVID-19, will require more than just mere policy statements, but robust funding since most of the country's highly attractive tourism sites remain underdeveloped, hard to reach, and lack amenities that help deliver on the brand promises.
This is where experts believe donor funding can come in handy. Such a funding program will help the country deliver on its brand promise of "Amazing Discoveries", which will captivate international visitors to spend more, stay longer, visit throughout the year and access a more diverse range of destinations across the country.
Not doing so means tourists would not easily make Liberia their destination of choice year after year. Most importantly, the government needs to remove the obstacles that make Liberia one of the difficult countries to visit since getting a visa is hard, while there is no visa upon arrival program for tourists.
If the obstacles persist, it is hard to see Liberia receiving 88,000 visitors by 2025 and, without growth in travel numbers, the sector would not emerge from the pandemic to become more resilient, more sustainable, more inclusive, and more innovative.
However, it is seen that President George Weah is already aware of the challenges, as well as the need for the government to invest in the sector if its potential is to be realized and drive the economy.
President Weah, while unveiling the country's Brand and Marketing strategy, reiterated his administration’s commitment to investing in tourism and making it a key sector to drive the country’s economic growth.
“We are also blessed with a striking coastline of over 560 kilometers,” the President added: “We have a unique flora and fauna, largely unexplored wildlife, and an excellent ocean tide, thus making Liberia an ideal destination for tourism.”
He said Liberians take special pride in the diversity of their heritage and tourist attractions—the lush green vegetation, beautiful waterfalls, pristine beaches, and other stunning landscapes.
"Tourism development brings together all sectors, including the private sector, which is an important engine of growth and economic development,” the President noted, calling on actors in the private sector to play a major role in the development of the Liberian tourism industry, either as independent entrepreneurs or through public-private partnerships with the Government."
Meanwhile, Ruben Phoolchund of the International Trade Center has disclosed that the Liberian tourism project, which the ITC supports, has progressed to deliver important results including an inventory of Liberia's tourism resources; a feasibility study for a visa upon arrival program; and guidelines for sustainable coastal tourism.
Phoolchund added that the project has also enhanced the country's capacity in digital tourism marketing; the strengthening of the capacity of the Department of Tourism at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism through the provision of equipment; the installation of a tourism information booth at the Roberts International Airport, and a tourism promotional website for Liberia.
"Given the COVID 19 circumstances, progress toward the achievement of results has not been an easy journey," he said. "So, the launch of the brand identity and marketing strategy marks an important milestone as it directs the future and potential of the Liberian tourism sector."
"Under the project, ITC will continue to provide much needed support to enable tour operators to enhance their operational capacities and business performance, to foster surfing as a tourism attraction and activity while strengthening tourism associations and targeted destinations with attracting more visitors," Phoolchund added.
Phoolchund further noted that the ITC, per the objectives of the project, "will continue to work closely with all relevant stakeholders because this is, after all, your project, and ownership is key to the success of the project.
"I would therefore like to encourage all of you to participate actively, provide guidance as we finalize the implementation of the project in the coming several months," Phoolchund noted.
Earlier, Mai Urey of the Liberia National Tourism Association (LiNTA) reminded President Weah to seriously consider the implementation of the Tourism Act, which has been passed by the Legislature but awaits his signature before becoming functional.
"This Act calls for an autonomous tourism authority whose only function will be that of tourism. As it stands, tourism, which is a serious driver for economic growth, job creation, to boost the government 's Pro-poor Agenda, is buried within another important function of government. That is information - the PR branch of government. Needless to say, PR is always winning over tourism," she said.