July 22, 2015 By Victoria Saffa
In a bid to promote culture and tourism in the country, the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and the National Tourist Board yesterday held a day’s workshop on the draft Eco-Tourism Policy.
The workshop, which was held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown, brought together over one hundred participants from all regions across the country. The session was aimed at developing a national sustainable and responsible Eco-Tourism Policy, as well as formulating an action plan as part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) 3 or the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’.
In his keynote address, Deputy Minister of Justice, Arrow Bockarie, stated that despite the tourism sector was badly hit during the Ebola epidemic, the ministry had shown resilience to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that “Ebola does not have the final say in the country’s destiny”.
He said Sierra Leone was endowed with very rich, warm and unique natural and cultural heritages that deliver an African experience and adventure, noting that successive governments had paid attention to the development of beach tourism.
“Our government is committed to developing a sound eco-tourism niche market through strategic approach to enhance its sustainability and long-term competitiveness in order for tourism to realise its fullest potentials,” said Mr. Bockarie. “We will do so by engaging local communities, creating economic opportunity and thereby alleviating poverty, especially in rural communities.”
The deputy Justice Minister highlighted some of the ultimate objectives of the Policy, which included conserving the natural resource base of the country, promoting the country as a premier eco-tourism destination, and securing economic benefits for local communities without adversely affecting their cultural ethos.
In her welcome address earlier on, the acting Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Kadija O. Seisay, called on the participants to concentrate on developing and promoting the country’s eco-tourism potentials.
“I assure you all that this day if all of us can work tacitly with one vision and a mission, the sector will definitely turn around the economy of the country someday soon,” said Madam Seisay. “This is because our oil fields and mines will dry up one day but our culture lasts forever, and it will continue to attract and hold the attention of hundreds of thousands of local and international tourists.”