A Study of the Tourism and Ecotourism Potential in Targeted Landscapes
- Client: Liberia Forestry Development Authority
- Partners: World Bank
- Project Duration: September 2018 - April 2019
Liberia’s ecotourism potential has long been recognized, but remains unachieved to date due to problems of sufficient political will, policy coherence, stakeholder coordination, infrastructure, human resources, and access to financing. When developed sustainably, tourism can contribute directly to the conservation of Liberia’s sensitive areas and habitats by bringing visitors to protected areas to learn, participate, and support local economies. In many destinations—especially protected natural areas— tourism income can replace revenue generated by actions that threaten biodiversity, such as poaching or deforestation. A portion of the revenues generated from park entrance fees and tourism providers (such as tours and accommodations) can be allocated specifically to fund the protection and management of environmentally sensitive areas.
Tourism also has the potential to increase public appreciation of the environment through bringing people into closer contact with nature—spreading awareness of issues impacting the destination and how to mitigate these issues with more sustainable behaviors. This heightened awareness of the value of a destination can lead to more environmentally conscious behavior among both visitors and residents.
The Liberia Forest Sector Project (LFSP) aimed to contribute to the conservation of Liberia’s globally significant biodiversity, providing a better representation of ecosystems within Liberia’s current protected area network and enable the active conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity by local communities.
The main objective of this assignment was to undertake a strategic study of the targeted forest landscapes of the Liberia Forest Sector Project, identify sites with potential for ecotourism and tourism, and develop a sample pilot Ecotourism project within one of the identified sites.
- Solimar International’s team of tourism, biodiversity, socio-cultural and economic specialists conducted desk research and interviews to fully understand the Liberia context as it relates to tourism and ecotourism development within West Africa and globally;
- Assessed the ecotourism potential and feasibility within key protected areas; and
- Developed an analytical study to determine the extent to which this underdeveloped sector could provide new revenues to the Liberian protected areas and adjacent communities within the foreseeable future.
- For the government of Liberia and the World Bank, conducted a detailed biodiversity and tourism assessment of nine existing and proposed protected areas, and through engagement with stakeholders from government, donors, conservation organizations, communities, and industry, prepared a three-year tourism development plan for the country, integrating the country’s cultural heritage, history, protected areas, beaches, and other tourism assets – and a one-year pilot project to jump start the implementation process. The plan included definition of proposed circuits that integrate a variety of tourism assets, identification of investors willing to develop upscale ecolodges in two national parks, plans for proposed integration of Gola National Park in Liberia and Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone into a cross-boundary tourism destination, and detailed action plans that laid out a proposed organizational structure for implementation, sources of funding, lead actors, timelines, milestones, and deliverables.