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Ivory Coast seeks to boost tourism despite insecurity fears

Ivory Coast seeks to boost tourism despite insecurity fears

Ivory Coast

More than a month after militants killed 19 people on Ivory Coast’s Grand Bassam beach, fun seekers are gradually returning to enjoy one of the country’s top tourist attractions.

But owner of a hotel, Ocean et Lagune close to the place where the March attack took place said hotel owners in the area are struggling.

The fifty nine-year-old hotel owner, Losseni Bora returned to Ivory Coast in 2012 to invest in a hotel after many years of travelling abroad.

It's true, I've lost 95 percent of my customers, but I think I will make it. I will not give up, I will keep trying to work, and I will stay to show Ivorians and everyone else that jihadists cannot destroy our businesses.

His hotel, Ocean et Lagune has only eight operational rooms with four more under renovation.

Bora says they have hardly had any guests since the six shooters targeted hotels on the beach but he is determined to make the business work.

“I have returned so that I can work. As for the jihadist problem, I cannot allow these people to take over. It’s true, I’ve lost 95 percent of my customers, but I think I will make it. I will not give up, I will keep trying to work, and I will stay to show Ivorians and everyone else that jihadists cannot destroy our businesses,” Bora said.

Officials say Ivory Coast has invested 151 billion CFA (about $266,000) in hotels over the past three years as part of efforts to improve the service industry and boost tourism.

The government is targeting 1 million tourists in 2016, which is almost double the number from last year as the West African country tries to turn around an economy held back by several years of unrest.

General Director of Côte d’Ivoire Tourism, Jean-Marie Somet, called on tourists to come and patronize the country.

“After all the crises that this country has been through, we needed to highlight the amount of touristic potential Ivory Coast has. Ivory coast has beautiful land with many things to discover, including its culture and the 60 different ethnic groups in the country. It was important for us to be able to tell others that even though we have fought among ourselves, we have also reconciled and are on the path toward peace”

Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa, with output of around 1.8 million tonnes per year, but dry weather has already reduced forecasts for the 2015-2016 season to around 1.6 million.

Tourism, which accounted for 4.8 percent of the GDP last year is seen as a key sector to help diversify revenue sources.

Some 20 percent of Abidjan’s 5 million residents are considered middle class.

A Frenchman who has lived in Ivory Coast for so long, Gregoire Joyeux, said despite security concerns following the Grand Bassam attack in March, he wanted his family to see the transformation taking place in the country he once called home.

“I think that Ivory Coast is waking up and becoming stronger after that difficult period. Now, we can clearly see all of the energy that is possible here. As soon as we arrive at the airport, we notice the traffic on the roads and the number of enterprises and buildings. I myself struggled to recognize the building I used to live in only four years ago,” he said.

Bora is setting out on one of his hotel’s canoes, although with no guests on tour but he said he hopes a country that has made it so far after a decade of political turmoil, would not sink under the weight of insecurity fears.