Meet the 31-year old who set up the Freetown-based tourism company Visit Sierra Leone (VSL: www.visitsierraleone.org) just over a year ago
Why did you decide to start VSL?
There was no travel information on Sierra Leone and I wanted to provide something positive so people could see another side of the country. How big is tourism at the moment? It’s small but numbers are going up and I see huge potential. Holidaymakers are mostly visiting family or friends who live or work here, but we also have independent bookings from America, Sweden and elsewhere. What makes you successful? I think I got in early. I started the website in 2004, when no one was thinking about tourism, and it’s been growing ever since. Now we get more than a million hits a month, so I’m busy selling hotel rooms, organising hire cars and visas and creating tourist itineraries.
What’s new for 2009?
Visitors can stay at Tacugama, the chimp sanctuary just outside Freetown, which now has three lodges, and I’m keen to help people explore the rich wildlife of the north and the Loma mountains. You can also still have the beaches – even the famed River No 2 – to yourself.
What keeps you going?
Very few people can say they enjoy what they do – my work almost doesn’t feel like work. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, and unlike diamonds and other raw materials, if it’s managed properly tourism will never run out. It can also have a direct impact on the local community. The potential is so huge it gives me energy to keep going.