First tourism investment conference expected before year-end
Liberia’s Deputy Minister for Cultural Affairs and Tourism Lance Gbagonyon has revealed a plan that will make the tourism sector in the country become a million-dollar industry in the next six years.
The strategic tourism development plan set a target of 15 million international visitors to the country by 2023, with a projected direct economic impact of between US$20 to US$40 million.
Min. Gbagonyon said that Liberia is one of the few countries in Africa that has a wide variety of tourist attractions, especially given its position in Africa as the first black independent country, putting Liberia in a favorable position to attract more visitors if the right marketing techniques are put in place.
“My goal is to promote the tourism industry as one of the economic pillars for growth and job creation, and I’m working around the clock to make it a reality. The first priority area under the six-year strategic plan focuses on improving and persevering heritage, eco- and wildlife tourism structures. For heritage tourism, we are going to reconstruct the home of President Joseph Jenkins Roberts, Africa’s first democratically elected president, which stands on Ashmun Street and still has its original look of the 1800s. This would be turned into museum, likewise the birthplace of President Weah, the world’s first soccer star to become president.
“It will not just be an ordinary museum with memorabilia or artifact, but one that offers visitors a night’s stay. Also, the relocation of the cultural village to Behsao will be persevered as well as the 300-plus-year-old ruin defense wall in Lofa County, among others. Every tourist in this world will want to have a night on the bed President Weah slept on while growing up. This is an experience no one would want to miss,” he said.
Other priorities will include the construction of leisure resorts near the country’s three waterfalls and working with the ministry to issue e-visa for tourists, something which has not be done before.
Min. Gbagonyon added: “The issuing of e-visa will open up the country’s tourism industry to the world and make it vibrant. Tourists want to visit Liberia, but they find it difficult because of the visa process, which discourages them from visiting the country. However, everything will change once this e-visa, which will be meant only for tourists, comes into existence next year.
“We also plan to offer hospitality training because we need skilled personnel in that sector, to promote service that meets international best practices. The construction of resorts near these waterfall areas will boost eco-tourism. Most people would find it boring, traveling to a waterfall that doesn’t offer a residential facilities.
Min. Gbagonyon added the targeted 15 million visitors will be attracted through vigorous marketing approach once the necessary tourist attraction areas have been fixed by working with destination market organizations in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and the Arabian Peninsula to help promote the sector to foreign tourist.
“We have the largest remains of the Guinea rainforest, which possess some species only unique to this country, which is a big deal to wildlife tourists. All that is needed is to get the information out there the rightful way,” he noted.
The strategic plan will rely heavily on public-private partnership, a priority number one, in order to boost tourism growth, although there are certain earmarked projects that the government needs to fund as well.
“Priority number two will be undertaken through a public-private partnership contract. This is the best way to develop a tourism industry,” Min. Gbagonyon said, adding: “Liberia is replete with abundant tourism attractions — areas that just need one or two finishing touches. Growth is built via the private sector. Before the end of this year, we are going to have our first tourism investment conference to pitch the potential of the sector to local and international investors.”