TURNING THE CÔTE D’IVOIRE INTO A MAJOR TOURISM DESTINATION IN AFRICA

The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire is back as a destination on the world stage as the Ivorian government makes resources available to develop infrastructure and support international marketing efforts.

IFTM Top Resa is considered a priority market for the National Office of Tourism of Côte d’Ivoire. “We have a long-standing historical relationship with France and it is a natural move to be present at IFTM Top Resa every year, especially as French inbound is our top market next to the whole of Africa”, explains Roger Kacou, Minister of Tourism. “We use the opportunity of our presence at the show to organise many meetings with French tourism professionals, such as a meeting to talk about marketing promotion and cooperation with the President of SNAV, Jean-Pierre Mas”, he adds.

Côte d’Ivoire remains a relatively small destination when looking at numbers: 1.2 million foreign travellers in 2O15, which includes business, leisure and VFR travellers – but this is a steady market, growing year after year. “Tourism is turning into an important economic activity in our country. Just imagine; it had a share of only 0.6% of our GDP in 2011. In 2014, it stood already at 4.8% and we are now at over 5%”, says Kacou. “We believe that tourism might, in the future, have a similar share of GDP to cocoa, our largest industry, with a GDP share of 12%”.

The Côte d’Ivoire government leverages two main fields for the promotion of tourism. First, the country has, since 2011, identified the regions able to support the development of the destination. “They are basically ten areas ready to welcome international travellers. Abidjan and its metropolitan area is one, with Grand Bassam, a colonial city, which is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage and is a precious cultural tourism asset. We then have our 550 km long coast, which is ideal for the development of seaside tourism. It starts from Jacqueville, in the proximity of Abidjan and stretches up to Sassandra and San Pédro, two important seaside resort cities”, adds the Minister. San Pédro is already the country’s second most important port and now has an international airport. “Our coast is made of lagoons and bays, offering safe conditions for travellers”, explains the Minister.

In the north, the government has identified Kong and Korhogo as key cultural destinations. Kong has a number of centuriesold mosques while Korhogo is a destination for the discovery of the Senoufos ethnic people, who, says the Minister, are famed for its dances as well as their handicrafts. “We have indeed over 60 different ethnics living in the country and we now work to see how to promote this diversity.”

WE HAVE SOME OF AFRICA’S MOST PRISTINE RESERVES AND NATIONAL PARKS WITH OVER TWO MILLION HECTARES OF SAVANNAHS AND RAINFORESTS

The Republic has also some beautiful national parks. Taï National Park, in the south, is probably the best known in the country. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and has some of the last families of “intelligent Chimpanzees”. The clever animals are even able to crack nuts with a nutcracker! Another important natural asset, and also a UNESCO World Heritage site, is Comoe National Park with its rare endemic animals. “We might not be Kenya, but we have some of Africa’s most pristine reserves and national parks with over two million hectares of savannahs and rainforests”, smiles Kacou.

The Minister says that to accompany the development of tourism, the country’s infrastructure has been greatly improved since 2011: “We now have a motorway linking Abidjan to Yamassoukro and are currently building one between Abidjan and San Pédro. We also opened six regional airports within the country, all linked to Abidjan by our national airline, Air Côte d’Ivoire.”

The Ivorian people are an asset unto themselves. “We have a great sense of hospitality and also a good sense of humour. I promise that we know how to make our guests at ease and give them the best of our country. Everyone is truly welcomed in our country. I believe this is our most precious asset”, concludes Kacou.