In 2012, a new programme was launched to reposition the tourism industry as an engine of economic growth. Consisting of five axes of development, the state pledged CFA3.22bn (€4.8m) in 2012 and CFA1.1bn (€1.65m) in 2013 to fund the programme’s priorities, which aim to attract 500,000 tourists annually by 2015 and create jobs to integrate women and young Ivoirians into the formal economy while reducing poverty.

REVITALISED EFFORTS: External funding will be used to rehabilitate transport infrastructure and boost security across the country, while the creation of the Tourism Development Tax Fund will help finance the recovery of tourism enterprises. The 1.5% tax on annual operator revenues was introduced to provide private operators unable to access bank credit with guaranteed loans to invest in new equipment and facilities.

State priorities also include enhancing cooperation efforts with private sector actors via the launch of public-private partnerships in the coming years. Private actors are being currently identified to launch new tourist sites managed by private and public operators, though this is in the very nascent stages of development. The government also aims to have 4000 new hotel rooms available by 2015, with 15 hotels in operation to international standards by 2020, creating 4000 direct jobs and 8000 indirect jobs, respectively.

Additional priorities include the establishment of budget hotels in the interior regions to bolster ecotourism while ensuring that local populations also receive benefits. Considered the “new taste of tourism” according to the new tourism minister, Roger Kacou, who has brought his international experience in the private sector to the position since the end of 2012, the promotion of agro-tourism in particular is an important aspect of the state programme.

“Tourism could be key to the success of the country because it draws on essential sectors, including agriculture and culture, and would develop a tourism niche that is unique and sustainable,” Pascal Mahan, director of Lagoona Tours, a travel group based in Abidjan, told OBG. “The focus is not on mass tourism, but on high-value tourism that preserves our natural assets.”

FACILITATING TRAVEL: Visas have been identified as a major challenge to tourism because of the €110 cost and lengthy application process, which requires visitors to travel to Ivoirian consulates. Discussions are continuing to reduce visa prices and allow visitors to acquire visas at Abidjan’s Port Bouet Airport, perhaps through a visa facility similar to Senegal’s. A proposal is also being tabled to create a single visa for access to ECOWAS countries and thus facilitate regional travel.

Conferences have been a key way for the government to promote the country as a tourist destination. The 2012 and 2013 Salon du Tourisme de Côte d’Ivoire (SITA) and the 2012 Top Resa conference in Paris were three of several events in which officials and delegates sought to promote Côte d’Ivoire to foreign tourists, particularly from France. Speaking at the Top Resa Salon in 2012, the former tourism minister, Charles Aké Atchimon, said, “French tour operators are the eyes and ears of future tourists. It is therefore essential to help them to know the country better,” envisioning the launch of local educational tours for tourism agencies. The authorities also aim to tap into unexploited tourism markets, such as South Africa, Brazil and China, among others.

In 2013, SITA has promoted foreign investment in local hotel development, with 45,000 people invited, including 4000 tourism professionals. “The combination of these major axes should permit us to re-qualify the Ivoirian tourism package, to make local enterprises competitive and to reposition Côte d’Ivoire as a destination for international markets,” Gilbert Assoh, director of planning and projects at the Ministry of Tourism, told OBG.

CHALLENGES: The promotional programme aims to eliminate barriers to development, but some issues will require solutions in the short run. The conflict has led to a proliferation of illegal logging and poaching in national parks. State efforts must be expanded to eliminate threats to natural resources, perhaps by better integrating the local population into the segment.