By Nathan N. Mulbah
With a coast line of over 680 km, Liberia offers a much rewarding tourist attractions including a vast stretch of 96,300 Square Kilometers in land containing flora and fauna amongst the most diverse in the world by all standards.
To attract international and local attention to the Liberian tourism destinations, the Unity Party (UP) led government has made tourism a major part of its development policy pillars so as to garner the needed foreign exchange that can be tapped from the sector.
This write-up takes an incisive look at the development of the sector in the context of the ARREST policy and explains how tourism could eventually be the ‘Green Gold” of Liberia as the Unity Party government takes charge of national leadership.
The incoming Unity Party (UP) led government has listed tourism development in Liberia as one of its policy priorities to be addressed as they go about providing national leadership for the next six years.
Tourism is a vital and substantive sector that stands in need of attention as captured in the ARREST policy of the incoming government.
The ARREST is an acronym developed by lining up of the first letter of key areas the UP government wishes to develop during its tenure. The areas are Agriculture, Roads, Rule of Law, Sanitation and Tourism (ARREST).
However, this write is particularly an attempt to incisively look at how we can develop tourism much to the advantage of Liberia and how we can go about charting this course in a more organized manner.
It is recorded that the House of Representatives (HOR) of the 54th Liberian Legislature proffered a Bill seeking to create a substantive tourism agency in Liberia.
By that legislative instrument, the House of Representatives is praying for the separation of the bureau of tourism from the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism.
Understandably, that Bill has been forwarded to the Liberian Senate, where that body by law, will have to concur with the House of Representatives in order for it to become law and therefore binding on all and sundry.
Indeed, when tourism is separated from the Ministry of Information and finally becomes a substantive entity, there and then can we say tourism in Liberia is on the path to becoming a truly ‘green gold’ that could make Liberia a preferred tourism destination on the West Coast of Africa.
‘Yours Truly’ have written different articles calling for tourism to be divorced from the Ministry of Information. Now that, the lawmakers have put in vogue the process of enacting a law to make this a reality, we say kudos to them for their farsightedness.
We also call on the Liberian Senate to concur with their colleagues from the HOR of the Liberian legislature. As government business is continuity, we call on this current 55th National Legislature to continue from where the 54th national legislature stopped on this matter.
On the heels of the lawmakers’ action towards the resuscitation of the Liberian tourism industry, the Unity Party led government has elevated the conversation around tourism development in Liberia by highlighting tourism development in its national policy document.
Heartwarmingly, the importance and relevance of tourism is being highlighted by the incoming government from the get go as we fast-forward towards the realization of the creation of a viable tourism entity in Liberia.
That said, may I inform you that tourism is a major component in national growth and development.
According to the BBC English Dictionary, “Tourism consists of the activities of people visiting a place on holiday and the providing of services for these people”.
By extension, tourism is a sound hospitality and robust service industry. Hence, the reflection of the development of tourism in the policy document of the Unity Party government is highly welcoming, as this is a clear indication of tourism renaissance on these shores.
Let the word go forth that to establish and sustain a robust tourism sector across Liberia vast tourism destinations and attraction points we need to go down beneath the surface aggressively.
According to A. K. Bhatia, writing in his book, ‘Tourism Development: Principles and Practices’, “the basic determinants of success in the field of tourism can be threefold.
Viz: (1) Attractions, e.g. climate, scenery, historical and cultural features; (2) accessibility, e.g. distance of destination, their location and transport facilities and (3) amenities, e.g. accommodation, catering and entertainment facilities”.
Realistically, an appropriate mélange of all of the above three components is necessary for the success of tourism development and growth.
In the case of Liberia, we have got many attraction points that are very accessible. Our major drawback is the conspicuous lack of amenities I.e. accommodations, catering and entertainment facilities and transportation services around these tourist destinations.
Incontrovertibly, the building of a strong and robust national tourism organization for the appropriate guiding of the national tourism programs cannot be overemphasized.
National Tourist Organization
In our jurisdiction, the Department of Tourism at the MICAT is the official National Tourist Organization (NTO) tasked with the statutory mandate to manage tourism programs and projects across the country.
However, the establishment of the new tourism authority will ignite a change that will bring about a boom in the tourism industry in Liberia.
Fundamentally, the National Tourist Organization (NTO) should be the lead body responsible for the formulation and implementation of national tourist policy.
It is the proper authority and instrument for the execution of the national government’s responsibilities for the control, direction and promotion of tourism.
In the case of Liberia, hitherto to this period, the Department of Tourism at the MICAT serves as the lead National Tourism Organization.
But with the eventual coming into being of the proposed tourism authority, it will effectively replace the Tourism Department at MICAT.
The new tourism authority should have the capacity to lead the sector in the formulation of satisfactory constitutional arrangement, legal frameworks and programs for the advancement of tourism in Liberia.
A. K. Bahatia, an expert in tourism studies, has posited that “national tourism organization should be primarily concerned with control, direction and promotion of tourism.
The object and function of the NTO are therefore to ensure that the maximum possible value from the international tourism accrues to the country for its economic and social benefit”.
But you see, tourism in Liberia will thrive well if the degree of government’s direct intervention is sublimely measured for positive results as the new paradigm for tourism development has, by and large, substantially lean toward intra-tourism-sectorial cooperation.
As an industry that cannot be easily depleted, tourism, in my estimation, is Liberia’s new ‘green gold’ that must be jealously guarded if we must get the better of it and use it as a major foreign exchange earner and multiple jobs creation initiative.
Tourism: The ‘Green Gold’
Metaphorically, tourism can be described as Liberia’s ‘green gold’ because of its intriguing nature.
There are certainly many tourism destinations spread across Liberia that need to be developed if Liberia must yield the desired dividends from the sector.
Liberia’s arts and culture certainly constitute a major tourist attraction sub-set. If we consciously work along with Liberian wood and ivory carvers, sculptures, country clothe weavers, arts and culture practitioners etcetera, we could well be on the way to resuscitating a viable part of tourism development in Liberia.
Liberia is also blessed with beautiful sceneries and scenic expressions along the coast and hinterland that are bound to attract manifold tourists from different parts of the world.
Scenes and Sceneries
Liberia, as an independent sovereign country, covers an area of about 43, 000 Square Miles horizontally straddling from Maryland County in the eastern part of the country to Grand Cape Mount County in the western enclave of Liberia and vertically from southern Liberia to northern Liberia, believe you me, there are myriad of beautiful scenic tourist destinations that need to be developed and hush, the cash and jobs will trickle in like no man’s business.
Checkup Lake Piso in Grand Cape Mount County and see how it spreads from Beinndu Township up to Robertsport City.
See the rising sun and the sun set hovering over the Lake Piso and you will love to see it again. Do surfing on the Lake Piso and you will like to do it again and again.
There are many game parks across Liberia with variety of protected animal species. The Sarpo National Park in South Eastern Liberia, the Gola Konnen Park in Eastern Liberia and few other parks situated in Liberia are not only a rarity in the Gulf of Guinea but also the envy of many countries.
These game reserves are definitely serious tourist destinations that now stand in need of serious attention and development to help jumpstart the new tourism revolution across the country.
The envisaged new tourism authority, as captured in the Unity Party ARREST policy will have to take the lead in liaising with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and other tourism development agencies to develop and align a project that will center on the utilization of the game parks as major tourist destinations in Liberia.
Moreover, there are fine and beautiful waterfalls and other attractive landscape and geographical features including: Kpatawee Waterfall in Bong County and the Flaming Rock in Grand Kru County plus more natural beautiful sites that should be developed and embedded in the new tourism project that is on the horizon.
There is the artificial Blue Lake in Bomi County and many mountain ranges across the country that could be harnessed purposefully to facilitate excursion tours for students, national and international tourists.
Specially arranged excursions could be put in vogue from time to time by the national tourism organization for visitation to these sites around major festive period and or national convocation or celebration. This is one sure way of attracting the much needed foreign exchange.
Then there are many other historical sites and relics that could be harnessed for tourism purposes my friends.
Benefit of Tourism Development
The development of our major tourism attraction destinations, including the Providence Island, could be a trigger to the many good things that are yet to come on the back of Liberia tourism industry.
It is worth reminding stakeholders in the tourism sector, policy makers and national government decision making institutions to be proactive in evolving a more robust and sustain tourism program that will effectively put Liberia on the map of world tourism major destinations.
This will create more jobs in the hotel, restaurant and transportation industries. These are interwoven sectors align with the tourism sector.
In a bid to make tourism in Liberia literally functional in terms of job creation and contribution to national development, we would like to proffer few suggestions for consideration:
- The celebration of world tourism day on September 27 every year, should be rotated from one tourist attraction point to another across the country; the day was set aside for celebration to create awareness of tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value and the contribution that the sector can make towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
- That domestic tourism be promoted as the industry would rely on the enthusiasm of Liberians to visit most of the tourist sites to reduce the gaps created by the low influx of international tourists;
- To whip up interest in domestic tourism, the new National Tourism Authority in collaboration with the private sector, other Liberian Tourism Organizations, as well as the trade associations, should initiate the Domestic Tourism campaign: that will encouraged Liberians to experience Liberia and eventually, share Liberia’, to enable Liberians appreciate our emerging tourism sector, hospitality, arts and culture potential and engender cross-cultural exchange among ourselves as a people.
- It is said that charity begins at home, so it is important that we patronise what we have well enough to make it attractive and appealing to foreign tourists.
- The new National Tourism Authority should connect with the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), for the development of tourim in Liberia;
Many citizens of Liberia could be well on the way to obtaining well-paid jobs from the tourism sector once we consciously develop the sector in line with international best tourism development practices.
Again, we are upbeat that the lawmakers are now thinking of making tourism a viable sector in Liberia.
We hope that the current lawmakers will put the issue of tourism on their legislative itinerary in their very first session. We are sure doing this will trumpet the renaissance of our vital tourism sector.
In Passing the new Tourism Act, we pray the Act gives communities with tourism attractions the opportunity to partner with the new Liberia Tourism Authority to develop the potential attraction sites.
This will offer the tourism authority, communities, traditional authorities, city governments and counties the opportunity to manage the sites together to promote sustainability.
The new Tourism Authority should be encouraged to sign MOUs with the above stated stakeholders and be committed to the MoUs signed with some communities to develop and upgrade tourist sites across the country as tourism is certainly Liberia’s green gold.