President George Weah has outlined several priority projects intended to promote the country’s forgotten tourism industry, which many have considered as a sector that can contribute a lot financially to the country’s struggling economy.
The president’s plans, which were disclosed during his second state of the nation address, place his administration’s focus on the development of a national tourism board, the introduction of visas upon arrival and tourist visas.
When done, this, experts agree, will definitely open the country’s tourism industry and bring about growth.
During his speech, President Weah said the government under his administration will continue to work to improve tourism potential as they have begun reviewing policies and legislation that are needed to improve the sector.
“Liberia is a beautiful country with a huge tourism potential; therefore, we are reviewing the option of seeking legislation to set up an independent national tourism board to regulate and attract investment in the sector.
“Additionally, we will implement a Visa-upon-Arrival program, as well as the issuance of Tourist Visas, which are intended to open the country’s tourism industry,” the President said.
Meanwhile, Lance Gbagonyon, the Liberia’s Deputy Minister of Cultural Affairs and Tourism, said he has begun crafting the necessary policies documentation which will be sent to the President for implementation.
The minister added the main function of the national tourism board, for which they have begun drafting legislation, is to enhance the reputation of tourism at the national level, including the planning and implementation of a common strategy and the conception of its promotion, proposal and the performance of promotional activities of mutual interest for all subjects in tourism in the country and abroad, as well as raising the overall quality of the whole range of tourist services on offer in the country.
“The goal of the President’s strategy is to actually realize the vision of the country’s national tourism trade export strategy, which requires the government to implement policies to make the tourism sector largely private-sector driven, void of government interference.
“The President’s commitment to the tourism sector is intended to drive sales and growth in the sector, to help accelerate the country’s economy from recession and create jobs, taking into consideration frequent job losses into the mining and manufacturing sectors across the country,” Min. Gbagonyon explained.
President Weah’s commitment to initiate policies for the growth of the country’s tourism industry comes less than a year after the Bureau of Tourism and culture developed a five-year strategic plan, which targets 15 million international visitors by 2023, with a potential boost to Liberia’s economy, put between US$20 million to US$40 million.
“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,” Minister Gbagonyon said during an interview a year ago with LIB Life.
The President’s announcement to prioritize the tourism industry has been lauded by sector stakeholders as a great undertaking.
One of those who have praised the President for recognizing the potential of the tourism industry is Chiquita Johnson of West Tourism Management, who said that the move to make available tourist visas and visas upon arrival will open up the country’s tourism industry to the world and make it vibrant.
Ms. Johnson said: “The upcoming visa policy changes will encourage more tourists to visit Liberia as they will no longer go through a difficult process to get a Liberian visa.”