The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and its agencies with support from the World Bank have celebrated the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) World Tourism Day. The theme for the celebration was: “Rethinking Tourism” “the impact of violence and conflict on tourism, tourism for peace”.

The chairman for the occasion who also doubles as the Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Amb. Foday Yumkella in his opening statements said they were there to observe the World Tourism Day with an important slogan “Tourism for Peace”. He said without peace there can be no tourism and tourism can promote peace. “The complementarity of tourism and peace cannot be overemphasized which has heightened the interest in tourism as a means of promoting peace”, he noted.

The Director of Tourism, Mohamed Jalloh remarked that the celebration of World Tourism Day creates the platform to have a sincere dialogue to address those challenges and take advantage of the opportunities available. The explained the gains made by the sector and the impact of COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. He said the incident of August 10 captured the attention of renowned international TV channels which has negatively impacted the brand Sierra Leone, adding that what is significant for tourism is for such ugly and horrible images not to cloud the good pictures of Sierra Leone, hence the local theme was “the impact of violence and conflict on tourism” which he said will be discussed at the regional headquarter towns.

The Project Coordinator, Sierra Leone Economic Diversification Project (SLEDP), Mary Jalloh said she was excited to grace the occasion especially as a Sierra Leonean and also to sharing her branding experience about Sierra Leone. She said SLEDP is a World Bank funded project that focuses on transforming the perception of Sierra Leone through the tourism sector. She mentioned that they supported the Ministry to develop the first ever national tourism and rebranding strategy for Sierra Leone while saying that the brand of Sierra Leone is the people of Sierra Leone.

In her keynote address, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt said the theme for this year’s celebration was a deliberate attempt by the Ministry to set up their awareness raising campaign and change the mind-set of young folks about the dangers of conflicts and its attendant consequences. “The 27th September every year was regarded by UNWTO as a special day for the celebration of the World Tourism Day since 1980, the day was chosen to promote public awareness on the immense contributions of tourism and the socio-economic growth of nations and to promote peace and socio-cultural cohesion globally as well as to reflect on the challenges faced by the industry, she explained.

She maintained that tourism and peace has been a complimentary factor impacting each other. A positive development in one leads to the same in the other while negative development also drives in negative impact. She added that tourism activities have the potential to bridge settlement across areas of conflict, saying that there was the need to enhance the awareness raising campaign on tourism activities and its inter-relationship impact on peace to maximize society’s benefit from our positive relation, a feature she said this year’s commemoration intends to achieve. She highlighted the significant gains made by the sector and called for concerted efforts across the board to ensure that those gains are sustained.

Representative from the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion, Office of National Security, Africa Peer Review Mechanism, Council of Paramount Chiefs and the Hotel Association all made relevant contributions to the occasion. High level panel discussions on “tourism for peace (youth violence, conflict and tourism) and “tourism and business”, climaxed the occasion.

# From the Information Unit, MTCA.