On Thursday, September 9, the Liberia Tourism Working Group (TWG) held its third working session ahead of an unusually expected busy tourism season for Liberia. The day-long hybrid meeting discussed plans for upcoming events like the World Tourism Day, Liberia Tourism Brand and Marketing Launch, a December planned Liberia Cultural Festival amongst other topics.
Joining online, International Trade Center (ITC) and United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) representatives assured TWG members of their Organizations’ commitment to tourism development in Liberia. ITC’s Project Manager on the Liberia Tourism Development Project, Aklile Habtemariam, updated attendees on the achievements of the Project to date and stressed the role and responsibility of the group.
Representing the UN World Tourism Organization, Marcel Leijzer, Manager of Technical Cooperation and Silk Road, reviewed first quarter 2021 achievements such as completion of the brand identity, marketing strategy, and training on digital marketing for tourism, which when fully implemented will have a significant impact on Liberia’s tourism in the short and long term.
Optimistic about Liberia, Leijzer said, “International tourism is still a challenge in this period of the COVID 19 pandemic. We have to remain optimistic and we have to plan for the future because there will be a future. International tourism to Liberia will be possible and pick up, and you will receive tourists. Whatever promotional activities you do now will pay off for the future,” he further noted.
The TWG jointly with the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism monitors tourism development initiatives and provides advice on the development of the sector. It comprises relevant line ministries and agencies including immigration, justice, police, Airport, Liberia Revenue Authority, and others; the Liberia National Tourism Association; development partners and civil society groups.
Critical to the discussion was the status of the National Tourism Policy and Act, already passed in both houses, which once implemented will expedite the visa delivery process, a Tourists Board, and other major game changers for the sector.
Leading the discussions, Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, Minister Lance Gbagonyon emphasized the importance of cohesiveness with tourism stakeholders, saying “We want to assure you that what was captured in the Strategy (branding and marketing) reflects your expectations and views expressed during our initial engagement. It matches with what we all think is in the interest of the tourism sector.”
Speaking on the Brand and Marketing Strategy, Coordinator of the European Programme for the Preservation of Forest Ecosystems in West Africa (EU-PAP For), Marc Languy said, “I was extremely impressed by the whole strategy, I think it was comprehensive, it was ambitious… I think it’s a good motivator because the tasks are huge and the road is long and uphill so it needs to be ambitious.”
Dr. Annika Hillers, Country Director of Wild Chimps Foundation (WCF), called the meeting “a very good start,” furthering that the Tourism Working Group is designed “to improve the coordination and collaboration of various stakeholders involved in tourism activities in Liberia, from different backgrounds and contributing to different aspects of tourism in Liberia. It was great to see the level of progress that has been made in particular, regarding the branding and marketing strategy. We remain optimistic of all present and future contributions of a sustainable tourism industry to national development for the healthy growth of all sectors and subsectors of the Liberian economy.”