The minister was highlighting challenges and plans to revamp the sector during a meeting with hotel owners and managers at a recent retreat. She said she had realized that the National Tourist Board (NTB) is ill-equipped and lacks the prerequisite capacity to properly standardize and classify hotels in accordance with international standards.
She noted that according to the Board’s previous classification, very few hotels in the country are rated as 3 Star and one as 4 Star. She added that wrong classification of hotels has the potential of undermining the tourism industry.
She added that among her plans is to improve the sector by investing in tour buses; building the capacity of the Tourist Board, engaging hotels and guest house owners, packaging domestic tourism; investing in small boats and creating the avenue for the creation of alternative power supply (solar energy) to hotels and other players in the tourism industry.
In a snap interview at her King Harman Road office in Freetown, she threw light on other approaches she intends using to revamp the sector including, revenue mobilization, engaging partners to invest in the industry, improving on the operations of tour guards, constructive dialogue with hotel owners on the way forward, motivating staff of the ministry and attracting investors to invest in sea transportation and also establish at least 20 bedroom guest houses Bunce and Bonthe islands receptively.
She however bemoaned what she described as the deplorable and dilapidated status of the National School of Hotel and Tourism, which she said among other things, lacks up-to-date curriculum and staff. According to her, in order to upgrade this school, she recently signed a 3 year contract with a Dutch-based institution to help the school with staffing, standardize the curriculum and assist with other expertise that would help transform the hospitality industry in Sierra Leone.
Furthermore, she spoke of plans underway to collaborate with the University of Sierra Leone for the introduction of a BA course in tourism with the aim of improving the capacity of those working in the industry.
She spoke on the challenges affecting the industry, including the difficulty in acquiring Sierra Leone visa, astronomical cost of landing flight fees, expensive cost of air tickets, the lack of information about tourist attraction sites in the country and low budgetary allocation to the ministry among others.