Updated: Oct 2, 2020
United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has designated 2020 as the Year of Tourism and Rural Development. This year’s World Tourism Day, celebrated on 27 September, was used to promote the potential of rural tourism to create jobs and opportunities. Visit www.unwto.org for more information about World Tourism Day and Rural Tourism.
There is no one definition for Rural Tourism, but it is referred to as “all tourism activities in a rural area”. Visit www.tourismnotes.com/rural-tourism for various definitions of rural tourism and rural area, and types of Rural Tourism.
In Sierra Leone, Rural Tourism can be used to preserve and promote our natural and cultural heritage, create jobs especially for women and youth, and provide sustainable economic development for communities.
Various types of Rural Tourism that can be developed in Sierra Leone are Agritourism, Farm Tourism, Ecotourism, Heritage Tourism and Wilderness and Forest Tourism. Some sites will provide a combination of two or more types. Activities may include touring farms, villages, towns, sites and rainforests, showcasing art and craft, teaching tourists how to make items, e.g. musical instruments, fabric, baskets and oils, fishing, and water-related activities.
Rural Tourism has its challenges, one of which is acquiring and applying the relevant knowledge and skills required to make it work. The ‘Diagnostic Study of TVET in Sierra Leone 2017’ concluded that staff across sectors did not possess the technical and soft skills required to perform their jobs well, and they struggled to apply the skills and knowledge they had acquired.
For a Rural Tourism business in Sierra Leone to be successful, the following knowledge and skills would be required:
1. Developing a Business Model
A Business Model, which is a high-level plan for profitably operating a business in a specific market, is required for every for-profit venture. It would include a description of the products and/or services that would be sold, who they will be sold to and why they would be desirable to those potential customers/clients, how they will be marketed, the competition, and projected costs and revenues. Developing a Business Model can be outsourced to a professional, but the business owner would still need to understand the business model as s/he will be implementing it.
2. Digital Marketing
Marketing is key to the growth of a Rural Tourism business, and Digital Marketing skills such as Content Management, Social Media, SEO are especially required to ensure the right content reaches the desired audience in the right way, and at the right time.
Productivity skills such as Customer Relationship Management (including software and other tools), using virtual meeting and collaborative tools (e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and OneDrive, Google Meet and Drive), Teamwork and Time Management will help you and your staff manage your clients and teams better, and work more efficiently.
If you want tourists to choose you over your competitors – global and local – you have to think creatively. Your products, services and ways of interacting with the public have to have some uniqueness that would set you apart from the crowd.
5. Basic Financial Management
The ability to record revenues and costs, and monitor spending is essential for making the business profitable, and for positive cash flow.
6. Work Etiquette and Ethics
To give tourists an unforgettable experience, work etiquette and ethics – communication, diversity and inclusion, environmental and waste management, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and honesty – are critical.
7. Cultural Heritage
Accurate information about sites, historical events, traditions, artefacts, plants, animals, birds and music is required if you are going to share your cultural heritage with your guests.
8. Health, hygiene and Safety
To avoid accidents and incidents, learn how to prepare and serve food in a hygienic manner, secure your premises and clean guest areas, especially toilets.
9. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Problems at all levels occur in the rural tourism business, such as vehicle breakdowns, severe insect bites or allergies. How you solve them would determine reoccurrence, recommendations or stress levels. Learn how to logically think through problems to arrive at solutions that would make your guests happy and comfortable.
The ability to network would bring in new and repeat guests, and help with finding partners for short or long-term ventures.
To acquire some of these skills for FREE, visit www.dsti.gov.sl/coursera to register and enrol by 31 October 2020.
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For travel services, visit www.visitsierraleone.org
For media and communication services, visit www.insight.sl
Photograph by www.visitsierraleone.org