Weekend Post (South Africa)

Tiny Benin looks to tourism to boost economy


WITH its palm tree-lined beaches, unique heritage and wildlife parks, Benin can hold its own against the best African holiday destinatio­ns.

But tourism revenue accounts for just 0.7% of gross domestic product and there were only 240 000 visitors in 2014, according to World Bank figures.

That compares to an average of one million visitors a year in Senegal, which is one of the most popular destinatio­ns in West Africa. Now Benin’s government wants to change the situation.

“We’ve got 200 000 people with- out doing anything. Imagine what we could do with a bit of effort? We could double that,” said the head of the national tourism agency, Jose Pliya.

The agency, which was set up several months ago, is the focus of President Patrice Talon’s new drive to boost tourist numbers and as a result the wider economy.

“Our aim between now and the end of (Talon’s) five-year term is to reach 700 000 tourists,” Pliya said.

The head of the town’s tourist office, Modeste Zinsou, de- scribed the town as “a living museum”.

But one of the main problems facing Benin is getting there in the first place.

The government has in response lifted visa restrictio­ns for citizens of 30 African countries to encourage business travel from across the continent.

“As a general rule Africans don’t do leisure tourism, which is a lot more Western,” Pliya said.

“Now our aim is change the situation, so those who are business travellers will spend a day or two at leisure.” – AFP

 ??  ?? UNIQUE CITY: Benin, a French-speaking West African nation
UNIQUE CITY: Benin, a French-speaking West African nation

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