He congratulated his successor, while stating that the handing over ceremony is also an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the past 12 months and the agenda for the years ahead.
He added that he took over the Ministry of Tourism in April 2016 at a time when the country was just coming out of the Ebola epidemic and at a time when the APC’s government announced economic austerity measures which brought about difficulty across the country.
He explained to his successor that because the government wanted to diversify the economy, it was necessary to prioritize tourism as one sector which could attract growth opportunities with a strong political will; the reason why much attention was given by the outgoing government to creating avenues for activities and projects that are attractive and enabling the growth of tourism.
“For me, I set my focus on key areas because I was in a hurry and I knew that I needed to strengthen the institutional and regulatory framework within the ministry because the strength and structure of the ministry needed to be looked into as well as the policies and regulations that guided the activities of the ministry,” Mr. Tunis said.
He continued to say that some of directors in the ministry were able to develop new tourism and eco-tourism policies and also reviewed the 1967 Monument and Relics Act and initiated the Sierra Leone Heritage Bill which has gone through Parliament for approval in order to strengthen the mandate of the Monument and Relics Commission.
“In just 2 years we created 45 new establishments,” he said, adding that employment within the sector grew by 85% in 2 years and that revenue generation came up because of the new establishments created.
Responding, the new minister, Dr. Memunatu Pratt stated that this is her first political appointment and thanked President Bio for the confidence reposed in her. She also thanked the former minister for the good job he had been doing in the ministry.
She said the Tourism Ministry is an economic sleeping giant in Sierra Leone. She noted that there are many countries around the world today that do not have gold, diamond and other minerals which Sierra Leone has but rely solely on tourism which has been their backbone. She cited countries like The Gambia, Rwanda, Japan, and China even though they are big industrialized countries but that their GDP due to the revenue accrued from tourism is tremendous.