Tourism: Need for restructuring
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
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to the competition, has become tarnished and outdated'.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.