Most of the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) are avoided or overlooked by tourists. However, tourism can make valuable contributions to the economic growth of a country, and many LDC’s have amazing things to offer their visitors. For those who wish to help make a difference in the world, there are great options for adventure and relaxation all while helping a developing country’s economy grow in a sustainable and eco-friendly fashion.
Impact on economic development
The concept of using tourism for economic development is not new in Senegal. In 1973, the government of Senegal funded a program called Campements Ruraux Integrés (CRIs), which gave loans to local villages to build campsites for international visitors and tourists. These sites were run as cooperatives, and the profits were then used to build schools, medical facilities, and other needed infrastructure for the communities who ran them. Though these campsites were very basic, in the peak of their popularity, some 20,000 people used the Campements, and a few are still active today. Along with fishing, tourism is the largest source of foreign currency, and the Senegal’s Minister of Economy and Finance said in May 2009 “we are committed to the establishment of a tourism, cultural industries and crafts sector as part of the strategy of accelerated economic growth.”
The World Travel and Tourism Council predicts that in 2009, tourism will account for 7 percent (US$1,045 million) of gross domestic product (GDP), 5.8 percent (155,000 jobs) of total employment and 15.1 percent (US$440.8 million) of Senegal’s total export earnings. Over the next ten years, GDP contribution from travel and tourism should grow to 7.6 percent (US$1,957 million), and employment resulting from the industry is expected to rise to 6.2 percent. In a tourism ranking of 42 sub-Saharan countries, Senegal was placed 16th in terms of forecast industry growth, and 19th in terms of relative contribution of the tourism industry to its overall GDP.
Why you should go
Music, dancing, beaches, historical sites of the ancient slave trade, and quaint yet vibrant villages. These are just a few of the interesting and cultural assets of Senegal, and some of the reasons it is one of the top destinations in West Africa. With historic colonial architecture, modern buildings, hot nightlife, and open-air markets boasting some of the best shopping around, the capital Dakar is the forefront of modern Africa. This city on the beach also has a variety of water sports and urban outdoor activities, such as biking and tennis. About 20 minutes off the coast is the island of Goree, one of the first main outposts in the slave trade. Many of the original buildings still remain and have been turned into museums, exhibiting the fascinating and disturbing aspects of the old slave trade.
Saint Louis, the former capital in the North, has been compared to New Orleans. It was the first French settlement in North Africa, and has retained its historical ambiance, with small cobblestone streets and buildings in the old French style. Also like New Orleans, Saint Louis has a world-class jazz festival each year. Each May, traditional and contemporary musicians from all over the world descend on Saint Louis for four days, creating an unforgettable cultural and musical melting pot.
The Saloum Delta Islands are a great place for eco-tourism. This small group of islands is known for its beaches, fishing industry, and huge variety of birds and wildlife.
The Pink Lake (or Lac Rose), North of Dakar is one of the most popular sites for travelers. Due to mineral content, the lake is completely pink. The water is warm and easy to float in because of its high salinity. The surrounding area is home to a baobab forest, traditional local villages, and beaches.
Being a responsible traveler is key to aiding development. Here are a few recommendations on travel companies, hotels, guide groups, and other travel aids that focus on sustainable tourism through being eco-friendly, and operating in sync with local communities to raise living standards while preserving local culture.
-Ecotours is a Senegalese owned and operated company that promotes “the development of natural resources as well as the culture of the host communities of Senegal throughout the world.” They have organized and led all types of groups, from student organizations and study groups, to photographers, to regular tourists on holiday. Part of their revenue is also given back to the local communities, either for nature and cultural preservation programs, or community development initiatives.
-Keur Bamboung Ecolodge is an intimate lodge on the riverbank in the middle of the Saloum Delta, where protection and enjoyment of the surrounding environment is the priority. There are eight small huts where visitors can stay. All staff are local, and the lodge runs entirely on renewable energy sources and only serves local produce.
Website: http://www.saly-travel.com/keur_bamboung http://www.oceanium.org/ (French only)
-Thioffior Village is the perfect place for those looking to experience true local culture. Visitors stay with locals in their homes, and more than half the revenue from this program goes back into the local village to fund building a school and a medical facility. The organization is still fairly new, but in the future they hope to build an eco-friendly lodge to provide another lodging option for visitors.
Website: http://www.saly-travel.com/Thioffior_Village_Group http://site.voila.fr/thioffior/index.jhtml (French only)
Collines de Niassam Lodge, an ecolodge in the Saloum Delta, is part of the natural surroundings. Many of the rooms are built up into the Baobab trees as open-air tree houses, and seek to “blur the separation between interior and exterior.” The entire hotel runs on solar power, and petrol lamps provide light at night. The lodge also offers many different activities in the surrounding area. For those looking for more luxurious accommodations that are still eco-friendly and out of the ordinary, this would be a fabulous option.
Senegal is considered safe for travelers, and the U.S. Department of State has not issued warnings or alerts against travel in Senegal. However, there has been some unrest recently in the Southern Casamance region West of Kolda, and it is advised that the area be avoided, except for the city of Ziguinchor. Public gathering and demonstrations are a common occurrence in Senegal, and like any large gathering, there is potential for it to turn violent, so visitors should avoid these as much as possible.
Robbery and theft are also a hazard, particularly in areas heavily populated with tourists, like the Pink Lake. Stay aware of your surroundings, and try not to travel alone at night.
For more information on safety, visit: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1013.html#safety
For more general information about visiting Senegal, please visit the following sites:
http://www.tourisme.gouv.sn/ (French only)