By Leroy M. Sonpon, III
The Plenary of the House of Representatives has mandated its Committees on Judiciary and Information Broadcasting, Cultural Affairs and Tourism to review an Act titled: “The Liberia National Tourism Authority Act of 2020.”
The new law is aimed at making ‘Tourism’ an autonomous agency and would be separated from the Ministry of Information. The Joint Committee is expected to report to the House’s Plenary within a period of two weeks. Rep. J. Fonati Koffa, chairman on the House’s Judiciary Committee, will chair the joint committee.
Liberia is geographically tourism attractive. The beaches, waterfalls (Kpatawee and Gbedin in rural Liberia), lakes (Lake Piso and Sheppard) along the coast, natural vegetation and relief areas lie undeveloped thus causing the country to lose revenue from tourism.
The motion for the Committees to scrutinize the Tourism Law was made by Rep. Matthew Zarzar after it received its first reading on Thursday, February 13, 2020 – the 10th day sitting. The Act is sponsored by Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Moses Gray, and Bomi County District #1 Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe.
In their communication to the House Plenary, Representatives Gray and Snowe said the act, when passed by the Legislature, will help boost Liberia’s economy by generating more revenue from tourism. According to the lawmakers, the bill will also create more job opportunities for Liberians as well as promote the tourism sector across the country.
The lawmakers indicated that the tourism sector in Liberia has a great potential among countries in West Africa, and as such it is about time for the Liberian government to concentrate more on the sector. Representatives Gary and Snowe said the act further seeks to involve local communities; including women, youths, vulnerable and minority groupings in all stages of responsible tourism development such as planning, decision making and implementation of tourism development strategy and activities.
They noted that the instrument, when enacted, will promote and ensure the respect and dignity of people within the tourism sector of Liberia. Meanwhile, Representatives Gray and Snowe have pleaded with their colleagues to see reason to pass the bill.
Tourism plays a vital role in many economies in Africa. According to statistics, Kenya in 2019 attracted 5.6 percent of tourists and generated more than US$1.62 billion with 1.1 million jobs for citizens. Rwanda is targeting US$800 million from tourism between now and 2023, a sector that serves as one of the main sources of income for that East African country. The Gambia also relies on tourism, from which this West African country gets 16 to 20 percent of its income.
Liberia’s tourism sector remains unexposed and undeveloped with very little attention paid to it. In the 2019/2020 fiscal budget, only US$4,000 is allotted to tourism; something that justifies opinion that the Liberian Government is inattentive to tourism.
It may be recalled that when the Daily Observer had an interview with former Liberia Airport Authority Director, Wil Bako Freeman, he emphatically stated that more flights were not coming to Liberia because the tourism sector was not vibrant to attract tourists to the country, and it was having an adverse effect on income generation at the Roberts International Airport.
Source Daily Observer.