|The Courier No. 136 - Nov-Dec 1992 - Dossier Humanitarian Aid Country Reports Sao Tomé-Principe-Senegal (European Community, 1992)|
|Senegal: Democracy pays dividends|
Tourism remains one of the sectors which Senegal can rely on to increase its income in hard currency and to reduce the balance of payments deficit. Indeed, in French-speaking Africa, Senegal is the principal tourist destination, ahead of the Ivory Coast. In the continent as a whole, it is in fourth place behind Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana as regards total international tourist arrivals.
But this flattering comparison may be somewhat misleading. In overall world terms it emerges that, of the 400 million tourists recorded in 1989 by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), barely five million visited Africa (1.2% of the total) and only 265 000 of these spent their holidays in Senegal. In financial terms, these visitors represented c $123 million in income to the country,, making Senegal the top earner from tourism in West Africa and the third most important tourist destination in the continent. It is worth noting that Africa's five million tourists generated only 0.7% ($1.37 billion) of the world's total tourist earnings (5194.5 billion) in 1989.
There are also indications that all is not well with Senegal's tourist industry. The reasons for the decline in this sector are, as elsewhere, related to internal structural problems combined with unfavourable economic conditions in the tourists' own countries.
As regards the first of these, it is stated in an expert report that 'the Senegalese tourist product, the cost of which is too high in relation to the competition, has become tarnished and outdated'. This assessment is corroborated by the information coming from tourist operators. Broadly speaking, they are pessimistic about the future. An example which illustrates the problem is the 'Club Aldiana' which has now been operating in Senegal for 20 years. Usage of the 230-bed establishment, which caters mainly for European tourists, has been declining for a number of years. The occupancy rate, which averaged 67.18% in 1989, fell to 60.09% in 1990, 54.31% in 1991 and the trend has continued since then.
Senegalese tourist promoters attribute this state of affairs, at least partly, to the strength of the CFA franc, which has a fixed parity with the French currency. This means that prices in Senegal are largely comparable with those of developed countries. They also contrast unfavourably with the prices charged in neighbouring Gambia, which offers a tourist product of similar quality. Hence the latter enjoys a competitive edge.
In short, it appears that Senegalese tourism needs to be redesigned in terms of both the product and its operation, with a view to attracting visitors who are not necessarily in the habit of acquiring a loyalty to a particular holiday destination.