In many other countries washed by the Atlantic Ocean, this great, picturesque waterway is used to bring in millions, even billions of tourism United States dollars.
Take little Gambia, one of West Africa’s smallest, poorest countries. It has only two primary foreign exchange earners—peanuts and tourism. Many times, due to drought, the peanut crop is down, leaving the country to depend on tourism for jobs and financial survival. Tens of thousands of tourists from various parts of Europe and other continents pour into The Gambia every year, bringing in millions of dollars into the economy.
The same is happening in La Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Rwanda and so many other African nations, not to mention Kenya, one of our continent’s most preferred destinations. Unlike Monrovia, there is hardly any water in Nairobi, yet several of the world’s five-star hotels are there. Kenya’s Atlantic city is Mombasa, where tourists love to flock, too.
Look at what has happened to our beautiful port city of Buchanan and all of its great, picturesque adjoining sub-cities of Upper Buchanan (Harlandsville), Edina, German Camp, Lloydsville and the St. John’s Community, washed by the great St. John’s River. All of these have great tourism potentials.
This newspaper has always contented, too, that Robertsport in Grand Cape Mount County alone could feed Liberia. There, within a one-mile radius, we find a lake, a mountain, a river and an ocean, with some of Liberia’s most beautiful and well-kept beaches.
So why haven’t we, in all these years, developed tourism? The Tubman administration, especially following the opening of West Africa’s first five-star hotel, Monrovia’s Ducor Intercontinental, lost the opportunity to plunge into tourism, mainly because of CORRUPTION. This newspaper has repeatedly over the years told the story of how Moshe Myer, the Jewish investor who built the Ducor, told G. Henry Andrews, President W.R. Tolbert’s first Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) Minister, and his staff how Liberia missed the glorious opportunity to launch tourism in West Africa.
Following President Tolbert’s addition of Tourism to Information and Culture at DICA, Minister Andrews scouted worldwide for proposals to develop Liberian tourism. Mr. Meyer was among many who responded.
During the meeting in Minister Andrews’ office in early 1972, the Minister remembered that it was Mr. Meyer who had built the Ducor. So Minister Andrews asked Mr. Meyer why had he left Liberia after building the Ducor and gone to the Ivory Coast and done a fantastic job developing tourism there.
Mr. Meyer readily responded that he had had no intention of going to Abidjan. His aim was to launch West African tourism from Liberia because this was the ideal place to do so. He mentioned our rich culture, the use of the U.S. dollar, and Roberts International Airport (RIA) where, at the time, Pan American World Airways, the leading world carrier to Africa, landed first in Monrovia before touching any other African capital. From RIA, Pan Am went to Lagos, Nigeria, then to Nairobi, Kenya, then to Johannesburg, South Africa.
“Our aim,” Mr. Myer told Minister Andrews, “was to use these prime advantages to launch tourism in West Africa from Monrovia.” Not thinking of the Ivory Coast at all, he said it was President Houphouet Boigny who asked President Tubman to please introduce him “to the man who built this hotel. I want him to come to Abidjan and build the exact same hotel there.” President Tubman made the introduction and President Houphouet pledged the full support of himself and his government for the building of a Ducor in Abidjan.
Alas! After the 1964 Inauguration, Moshe Myer said he and his team started doing their leg work to execute his tourism development plan. But every Liberian office they visited, the Liberian officials want BRIBES up front before even beginning the discussions!
Totally shocked and frustrated, Mr. Meyer said he and his team quickly left for Abidjan, where they found President Houphouet and his entire Cabinet eager and ready for tourism development. “That is why we built not only Hotel Ivoire, but the Towers and even the Riviera”—all spectacular tourism resorts.
But eight years following Moshe Meyer’s terrible experience here (1972), poor Liberia still wasn’t yet ready. A few months later, President Tolbert suddenly fired Henry Andrews and replaced him with a thoroughly political animal, Dr. Edward B. Kesselly, who was more interested in politics than tourism. That spelled the end of Tolbert’s tourism dream.
Are we ready today? If so, then how could we sit supinely and see and allow two of our prime touristic attractions, Hotel Africa and the Unity Conference Center, washed away by the beautiful Atlantic and DO NOTHING? (See yesterday’s sorrowful pictorial—page 8 of the Daily Observer).
How can we sit and allow West Africa’s first five star hotel, the Ducor, to deteriorate and lay idle for over a quarter century?
And guess what: we have also failed to rebuild the Ducor because of the same CORRUPTION. A certain well advanced and wealthy company developed a most beautiful and elaborate plan and presented it to the Liberian government, but instead of taking and running with it, Liberian officials wanted bribes. Not all the world’s companies are prepared to fall for that, so this one refused. And what happened?
The corrupt, unpatriotic and stupid Liberian officials gave the Ducor to a Nigerian firm, of course, for you know what! We pray that the Weah Administration will cancel that agreement and re-engage the firm that presented the exquisite original proposal and restore the Ducor and its entire surroundings and turn them into a paradise in Monrovia.
Maybe that exquisite and innovative project to rebuild the Ducor and its surroundings will inspire others to realize that the Liberian people are at last serious about tourism and come in and help save our capital city from the ravaging Atlantic.