Despite the country’s sprawling tourist attractions, the tourism sector in Liberia remains largely untapped primarily due to the lack of a clear roadmap that would guide the process of developing the sector that holds so much potential for job growth. But few months to the ends of its tenure, the government of Liberia has begun taking practical steps that will go a long way in ensuring tourism is marketed and utilized for the good of the citizenry, particularly the young people.
To this end, the Ministries of Information Culture and Tourism and Commerce and Industry, working along with the International Trade Center (ITC), launched the Liberia National Export Strategy (LNES) on Tourism last Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at the Monrovia City Hall. The LNES on Tourism is an integral part of the WTO Post Accession Plan. The Strategy contains nine pilot projects that have the potential to transform Liberia’s tourism industry. The LNES on Tourism brings to five the number of export strategies being considered to diversify Liberia’s economy. Addressing journalists following the launch of the strategy, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe indicated that the strategy is critical and a fundamental component of the government effort to develop a more vibrant tourism industry as a means of enabling social and economic development. Minister Nagbe narrated that the tourism industry is one the fastest growing sectors in the world economy and a key driver for development; it is labor intensive and stimulates the growth and development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). “The tourism potential is very remarkable. Our country is endowed with rich culture and a wide variety of beauty ranging from pristine mountains and valleys,” Nagbe recounted. The strategy to develop Liberia’s tourism sector, Nagbe said, is a critical step to addressing the evolving issues of inadequate regulatory regime, capacity deficit in the service sector and a need to ensure that everyone is involved in harnessing the gains in the sector. For his part, Commerce and Industry Minister Axel Addy pointed out that unlike other sectors little investment is required in the tourism subsectors. Addy maintains that the tourism sector is unique in that “you do not need roads, but to empower community people and promote a particular national endowment,” noting, “We are on the path of transformation. These deliverables are part of the WTO post accession plan that calls for infrastructure investment and development. We want to improve our ability to generate more revenue for sustained development”. Also speaking, the Executive Director of the International Trade Center, Arancha Gonzalez, emphasized that the strategy intends to mobilize stakeholders in the areas of ecotourism, wildlife, and surfing because the long kilometers of Liberia’s beaches must be a paradise for international surfers. She named hurdles identified to addressing bottlenecks in the tourism sector as quality management in hospitality, changing the tax code and visa rules, and infrastructure investments in roads, noting that most of these bottlenecks have already been addressed within the Liberian tourism sector. Liberia has a coastal belt of 350 miles along the Atlantic Ocean offering some of the best locations for beach resorts with a background canopy of greenery and clean and perfect scenes for sunbathing, swimming and outdoor relaxation. The Kpatawee Waterfalls in Central Liberia or the Lake Piso, which connects to the Atlantic Ocean in western Grand Cape Mount County all exude the complexities, beauty and serenity of mother nature, generating a recurrent love for nature every time one visits there. The rivers, mountains, islands and cultural villages could bring tourists face-to-face with the cultural, traditional and natural heritage of a country so under-explored in terms of the wonders and endowments of nature.