If impressions are to go by, if personal feelings are a good prognosis of what is to come, and if the purpose of the participation was to stimulate interest for visit to one of West Africa’s most attractive tourist destinations, then, by all measure, the just concluded Matka Turist Fair 2020, in Finland should be regarded as a huge success, and it was worth every penny. As a unique tourist destination, Sierra Leone’s promotion in the Nordic region is long overdue. But as the saying goes, ”better late than never”. Sierra Leone has now officially entered the Nordic tourist market, signaling her readiness to receive more tourists from the Nordic. And what an entry it was? Most certainly, this beautiful nation on the Atlantic coast of West Africa is poised to benefit from an insatiable sun-seeking, adventurous and exotic-loving Nordic population. The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, with its affiliate National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone have definitely made an imprint in Helsinki. In what we have now gotten used to, or to mildly express it in fairness, the lead of an energetic Hon. Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt was quite noticeable at the event. Sierra Leone received special coverage throughout the event.
First, it was a national tv coverage of Sierra Leone by one of Finland’s biggest tv networks, MTV3, and where the Minister took a centre stage with her usually persuasive appeal to the public. She convincingly presented Sierra Leone’s unique selling point as an alternative tourist destination unmatched by none in the sub region. Successfully, her tv appeal captured the attention of the Finnish public, triggering an avalanche of visitors to Sierra Leone’s booth.
Sierra Leone’s first-time presence at the event also attracted the editorial of a leading Finnish travel journal call Ikkuna Paikka-Window Seat. It ran a frontpage article describing Sierra Leone as ”on yksi messujen uusista maista” (Sierra Leone is one of the newest participants in the tourist trade fair).
Throngs of eventgoers lined up to connect with Sierra Leone through direct contacts with staffers from NTB and, many times with the Minister and the Director of the Ministry, Mr. Mohamed Jalloh, making it at times a bit stressful to cope up with the tempo. But of course, one could understand where it was coming from. It was exactly what was wished for. In between the collection of promotional materials (which we almost ran out of) that were shared, almost exclusively the eventgoers were keen to have answers to the most typical question: the general security situation in Sierra Leone. Having moved away from the scars of the war on our national image, positive features of Sierra Leone were distinctively presented to the amusement of public.
Besides the media coverage and its benefits thereof, the staffers and other assistants had a special way of stealing focus. And the bait was simply the magnetic African drums which thundered intermittently to create an enthralling atmosphere. The cacophony of the sounds from the drums, combined with an assortment of Gumbay songs were irresistible for the visitors.
The president’s ambition over tourism development in Sierra Leone was echoed in the spontaneously creative lyrical vibes delivered by the duo, Obi Phrase(our international artist and the front man for the Ministry’s presence in Finland), and NTB’s very own Marketing and Publicity Officer, Kai Bockarie Saquee. His energetic dance moves created droolworthy moments for the public, and which was only outdone by the momentary display of a seasoned and elderly African woman in the person of the Minister herself.
Beyond the inescapable call to attention by the drummers and contortions of Kar Saquee, were the beautiful African apparels, embroidered on traditional African fabrics which were worn by the Minister, the Managing Director of NTB, Miss. Fatmata Osagie, and the Marketing Manager Mrs. Lucinda Kargbo. All became an instant on stage attraction and a cause for increased curiosity for visit to Sierra Leone. The visitors received a lot of information about Sierra Leone, and many expressly said they would definitely visit in the near future.
The stage is now set and if the Ministry’s success in Finland is replicated in other Nordic countries Sweden, Denmark and Norway, then, it is most certain that Sierra Leone will benefit from the huge tourist market the citizens’ love for the exotic.