By Amara Kargbo
Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, a peripheral of economic and social development sector has been seriously constrained and hit in amidst of COVID-19, aims to kick-start activities.
Mohamed Jalloh, Director of Tourism explained that the ministry “was the worst hit sector,” it exclusively depends on touristic activities like travelers, natural environment, entertainment, which strive in sustaining economic growth in jobs creation, foreign exchange and tax revenues generation.
Unfortunately, when all these activities were restricted it had led others to suffer as well as threatens unemployment, it said.
He mentioned that a quantum of tourists that do come into Sierra Leone through flights were internationally, but when the pandemic struck, its posed a financial challenge for businesses equally so the ministry including the shutting-down of airports, lockdowns within countries, hotels, quest houses, night clubs, casinos, which were all touristic created activities.
In another development, Director assured this medium that tourism sector; is a sector that has a “Bounce Back,” a resilience sector which creates curiosity in the minds of people by travelling from one country to another, and once the ministry concludes proffering guidelines against the disease the sector will revamp again.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security Tourism Ministry were trying to negotiate with the affected established businesses as to whether workers could work on 50-50 bases wherein if someone is working on four-weeks they will now work two-weeks each instead of sacking them, but even with such arrangement business people were still struggling.
The ministry is also considering NaSCA scheme to be extended in the formal sector, because there people who are cleaners, dancers, entertainment; these people do not have a formal business, but as a result of pleasuring recreation touristic activities they were benefiting. But with inception of the virus, these artists were affected; the ministry is working on how they could solicit funds to render assistance to such people.
As many countries were gradually opening their touristic activities, Sierra Leone too wants to join similar vein by preparing a handbook that will contain COVID preventions for proprietors and proprietress especially for hotels and visitors.
The tourism ministry is working on a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) a supporting project that gears in aiding businesses that have loans and how they could get deferment in terms of their payment or how they could get loans at a very lower interest rate, this could yield dividend for businesses which will equally boost not only the tourism sector the economy generally.