By Hassan G. Koroma
Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs yesterday told newsmen that the influx of tourists into the country was unprecedented. Peter Bayuku Konteh was speaking at the conference hall of his ministry at Kingharman Road in Freetown.
He revealed that from 2011 to 2012, fifty-nine thousand seven hundred and thirty (59,730) tourists visited Sierra Leone, surpassing the previous year’s record. He said that during the last 10 months, over seventy-two thousand two hundred and thirty-four (72,234) tourists toured the country, representing a 14 percent increase from the past.
However, the figures could not be independently verified by the National Tourist Board or Airport Authority as such data are difficult to come by.
Konteh said his ministry could compete with others in generating much needed revenue for government if given the resources.
“We have the attention of the government but we need more funds, even though there is a little increase in the 2014 budget to my ministry,” he said. “We are urging the government for more funds for us to complete the projects at hand and to improve tourism and cultural activities in the country.”
He maintained that next year will witness the reopening of the Mammy Yoko Hotel, while the upgrade of Bintumani Hotel to a five-star status will be completed.
The minister disclosed that plans have been completed to host this year’s Cultural and Sport Festival, which is scheduled to be held in Kabala from 24th December 2013 to 3rd January 2014.
He said his ministry will collaborate with the Koinadugu District Council and the Council of Paramount Chiefs in the district to ensure the event is a success.
“The festival will showcase not only diversity in unity but arts and craft as well and the climax of the festival will be the climbing of the Wara-Wara Mountain,” he said.