The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs (MTCA) in collaboration with its sub vented agencies the National Tourists Board (NTB) and the Monuments and  Relics Commission (MRC) on Tuesday 1st December, 2020 held a one-day stake holders’ engagement with Senior Staff from the Eco-Bank Sierra Leone at the Ministry’s Conference Hall, B28 Kingharman Road, Brook Fields in Freetown

According to the Head of Transaction Service Group, Mr. Lenard J. C. Taylor Pearce, the essence of their December gathering are to concretize partnership with MTCA and its sub-vented agencies, update them on the Pan African Bank’s plan to introduce new digital model in the Tourism sector, and to map out strategic way forward towards facilitating the successful launch and operation of their new digital products like E-Commerce, Virtual Cards, and Google my Business in the country.

“In terms of benefits in using any of these new products, it is enormous and one could not afford to miss it,” Mr. Taylor assured their Partners. Head of Transaction Service Group further told the Ministry and its sub vented agencies that the reason Eco-Bank decided to partner with them is to  promote domestic and international Tourism as it will create the opportunity for tourists to easily access their finances nationwide, adding that the enhancement of the Bank’s financial security at all times is also assured. Another very important reason for the partnership request, he continued, is to rebrand the Mano River Union country’s image, hence attracting  international market. Mr. Tailor Pearce concluded that Eco-Bank chooses to work with the Tourism Industry in order to not only complement the agenda of the government but to also fulfill their bank’s corporate social responsibility in promoting and supporting the activities of their partners.

The Hon. Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu B. Pratt in her response, expressed satisfaction over the Bank’s corporate proposal.

Dr. Pratt informed her guests that her ministry is now rated one of the fastest growing ministries in the country that now competes with top line ministries in terms of service delivery and producing positive results; which, she said, pacifies her the most these days. She added that before assuming office, the Tourism Ministry was always at the bottom and on the verge of collapse, but with the support of the visionary President Julius Maada Bio, Dr. Pratt explained, the Ministry is now being considered as one of the key economic diversification sectors in Mama Salone.

Dr. Pratt further said that in the process of developing the Tourism and Hospitality Industry, access to finance has been one of the major challenges of the Ministry as a lot of visitors may want to use their money through the ATM Cards. This, the Hon. Minister maintained, has always been a problem for them as the facility was not available in most touristic sites such as the Gola Rainforest National Park, Banana Island, Taiwa Island and many other places. With this new model of electronic digitalization launch, she assured all, will help salvage the long standing challenge within the sector.

Dr. Pratt encouraged staff from Eco-Bank SL to strategically partner with the National Tourists Board who are in charge of marketing and rebranding to assist the Bank in marketing their facilities to the different hotels, guest houses, beaches and other  tourists attractions in the West African nation. She further updated her partners on the Ministry’s plan in 2021 to officially declare National Domestic Tourism Day in Sierra Leone.

She concluded by reiterating her encouragement to Eco-Bank staff to continue working with MTCA, NTB and MRC for more publicity, organizing short-term trainings for hotel and hospitality workers, visiting prime touristic sites, preparing flyers for the launch, working with the local people in their communities, brining development to the different beaches, preparing billboards, partnering  with MTCA musicians and artists during their launching ceremonies, embarking on public sensitisations on the benefits of their products such as the use of E-Commerce, Virtual Cards, and Google my Business, and to officially seal it the respective regional launch.

The Administrative Manager of the MRC, Madam Ann Marie Kamara, informed the Eco-Bank representatives that she had had discussions with some of her partners living in the Diaspora who have assured her of honoring the 2021 “Back to my Root” trip. She explained  that the programme comprises African-Americans, who have been staying in the Americas, Pacific’s and the Carribeans for decades and centuries but do not know their roots, will be visiting here frequently; this relationship, she went on, resurfaced after most of them had traced their roots to this former British Colony. She encouraged Eco-Bank to utilize this opportunity and continue working with the Ministry and its sub vented agencies.

“Madam Minister, over the years, we have been working with the Tourism sector by giving supports to some hotels, restaurants, guest houses and other places. We have also been supporting the government’s agenda and by extension giving direct support to the  National Revenue Authority, the Freetown City Council and other government institutions,” one of the Bank’s representatives Mr. Victor Williams, told the Hon. Minister.

Mr. Williams entreated their partners on the different strives made over the years; disclosing that Eco-bank has established fifteen branches across the country. He added that they have initially developed lots of operational facilities that will suit the standard of the Tourism Industry. In addition, we have also supported and worked closely with the airlines, built point of sales in different places, created websites for different interested business owners and embarked on tree planting on the beaches.