26th August, 2021.
The United States of America’s Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone, David Reimer has assured Sierra Leone’s Tourism and Cultural Affairs Minister Dr. Memunatu Pratt of his country’s support to the sector during a courtesy visit to the Minister at the Ministry’s Head Office, Kingharman Road in Freetown.
Making his remarks, the US Ambassador to Sierra Leone, David Reimer remarked on how impressed he is to finally visit the Ministry responsible for the hospitality received by him and displayed by the transformation of Bunce Island, especially the historical preservations. He mentioned that though COVID has had a devastating effect on Sierra Leone’s tourism but hoped that once the pandemic is under control, the sector would go back to normal.
Ambassador Reimer emphasized that there are lot of potentials in Sierra Leone’s tourism although more needs to be done in marketing Sierra Leone to the US market starting with road shows and taking top officials to the US to let them know what Sierra Leone is all about. To this end, he proposed a collaboration between the two countries in the area of culture and invited the Minister and team to an exhibition of American Art work at his residence in November and also lot of potentials of Sierra Leone in Art work and several other prospects that the two countries can explore.
Minister Pratt welcomed and thanked the Ambassador for the support his Embassy gave towards the development of Bunce Island which she said is now completed and ready to connect more African Americans to their ancestral home when they visit the country. She communicated the Ministry’s request for funding from the World Heritage Fund to the restoration of Old Fourah Bay College.
She explained that today tourism and culture is the third largest aspect of the world economy in creating jobs and improving foreign exchange reserves. She told the Ambassador that the President Bio led administration has prioritized tourism as one of the growth sectors in terms of the diversification of the economy with over 30,000 jobs in the formal sector and more jobs in the informal sectors.
She pointed out that before COVID, the tourism sector had contributed over 4.8% to the GDP in a very short period and now that C0VID is still around, they have been using this period to consolidate the internal and governance level structures and a number of initiatives in promoting domestic tourism.
She added that the relationship between Sierra Leone and the US in terms of tourism has been great. She recalled that in 2019, they paid an exploratory visit to the US with support from the World Bank in order to track the US market and look at attractive investment to the sector and also popularizing Sierra Leone in terms of culture, promotions, exhibition and doing road shows by putting up cultural exhibitions in some states in the US where they would invite Mayors and Governors to see what Sierra Leone can offer.
She noted that she has given lectures in different universities in the US on tourism in Africa, thus deepening the ties between the two countries. She mentioned that government have conferred up to 100 citizenships on African American that came to Sierra Leone and MOU was signed with African Ancestry. As a direct result three hundred (300) more African Americans would be coming to Sierra Leone in November this year to trace their DNA and a number of them have expressed interest in investing in education, agriculture, humanitarian support and art and culture.
She said the sector is interested in the promotion of the entertainment industry by doing tours and connecting with US entertainers, the establishment of US hotels in Sierra Leone with an already established interest by the Mariot Hotel in the US.