The Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) and other local and international stakeholders have commenced a series of workshops on the marketing and branding of Liberia’s tourism. On November 6 and for the first time, MICAT and MoCI brought together other government agencies, the Liberian embassy representatives abroad, expatriates, the private sector, and experts and stakeholders involved in the tourism sector in and out of Liberia to explore Liberia tourism assets and the Country’s readiness for tourism.
This workshop was supported by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) under the Liberia Tourism Development project, funded by the Enhanced Integrated Framework program. It was the first of a number of stakeholder engagements that are scheduled to take place over the next three months for developing a tourism marketing plan and brand to promote the treasures of Liberia to local, regional and international travelers.
The tourism sector, which has garnered much interest in the last few months, is tagged to become one of the Country’s main income earners. This first Liberia Marketing and Branding Development Workshop provided an international platform, through an in-room and zoom online meeting, where stakeholders in tourism met and identified Liberia’s highest potential resources and assets while addressing the question of the Country’s readiness to receive tourists. Participants worked in breakout sessions to discuss topics that included a: SWOT analysis of Liberia’s attractions and experiences; Improvements needed in the industry; and Marketing options and challenges in attracting visitors.
The Workshop was facilitated by UNWTO and ITC’s international branding and marketing consultant, Dr. Mike Fabricius, a strategist and tourism destination specialist with extensive experience in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Caribbean. Co-facilitating the event was Hesta Baker, the ITC’s national branding and marketing consultant, a 30-year communications veteran with two decades in the tourism industry. Speakers included the Deputy Minister of Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Minister Lance Gba Gon-Yon; Liberia National Tourism Association President, Mai Urey; and Jesse Jefferson Fahn, Director of International Trade, Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
According to Dr. Fabricius, this is one in several stakeholder engagements that will take place over the next few weeks. “These engagements will guide a branding and marketing strategy and action plan for the Liberian tourism sector. We will also formulate guidelines and mechanism for sustainable tourism governance and management in coastal areas, focusing on Robertsport as a surf tourism destination,” said Dr. Fabricius.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, co-host of the event, Minister Lance Gba Gon-Yon said, “development of our branding and marketing strategy is in line with the Ministry’s just-validated National Tourism Policy and Master Plan. It will help to build capacity, brand the country, and sell the country’s rich tourism potential to the outside world.”
According to Jefferson J. Fahn, Director of the Project Implementation Unit at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), “the workshop is a positive step in the right direction as we strive to make Liberia the gateway to our Pan-African heritage. We are energized and encouraged by the support of the Government through the offices of our policy makers, the Honorable Minister of Commerce, Mawine G. Diggs. At the technical level, and with the demonstration of unflinching political will, the Minister of Commerce is keen on seeing the speedy implementation of the tourism development project in Liberia. When fully implemented, the Project will provide opportunities for job creation, youth empowerment, and numerous contributions towards economic growth and sustainable development.”
Mrs. Mai Urey, President of the Liberia National Tourism Association said “no product or service can be profitable or successful without an effective branding and marketing strategy.” The Association, with a membership of fifty, includes hospitality, travel, attractions and all aspects of the industry, and is recognized as the leading private sector stakeholder for tourism.
Mr. Aklile Mitiku Habtemariam, Project Manager from the ITC, said “the tourism marketing and branding activities, of which today’s workshop is part, represent one of the most important aspects of the various interventions under the Liberia Tourism Development project that ITC implements in collaboration with the UNWTO. A number of other interventions are being implemented under the project, including inventorying the tourism resources of Liberia; developing a tourism information booth and tourist reception facilities at Robertsport, Providence Island and Marshall Island, as well as building tourism governance capacities. The successful delivery of these interventions will enable to leverage more resources for consolidation of the interventions as well as further development of the tourism sector.”
The Liberia Tourism Development project emanates from the National Export Strategy on Tourism 2016-2020 and responds to the implementation of the Strategy. It has an objective of developing the tourism sector offerings by: a) improving the policy environment and institutional capacity; b) developing new tourism destinations around surfing and other historical and natural attractions; and c) undertaking targeted promotion and advocacy campaigns to promote tourism to international, regional and domestic markets. Specifically, the project aims at: a) establishing a tourism information booth at the Monrovia Roberts International Airport, b) developing tourist reception facilities at the Robertsport beach-front, the Providence Island and the Marshall Island; and c) developing a tourism marketing strategy and a tourism brand identity for Liberia, focusing on Robertsport as a surf tourism destination.
The project is implemented by the International Trade Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry; the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism; and the United Nations World Tourism Organization. It is funded by the Enhanced Integrated Framework Programme.