Interview ” Developing local and regional tourism: a market that does not exist and that needs to be created!’’
Eric Fihey, manager of Sindia Hotel, located in Diamniadio, Senegal, was in the process of developing his strategically located establishment in this booming city when the pandemic arrived. In his view, a profound renewal of the strategy of the players in the sector is needed in the light of this post-Covid era19. By focusing on the national and regional clientele, by adapting the tourism offer to this niche, and by developing a new tourism strategy for the region.
Interview by DBM
How did you experience the arrival of the Covid 19 pandemic in Senegal?
We have maintained a small activity mainly to help the castaways at the airport. In fact, I have had time to garden, build a pillar path and start the construction of the bar and the swimming pool; these two sites have been stopped for three months because of the rains.
How do you see the future of the sector in the short and medium term?
I think that events will radically change our professions because everything is being called into question. Ninety days of confinement gives you time to think. I believe that initially, at least for a year, our market will be limited to local customers for whom we must propose offers that correspond to their means, which are low, of course. Here in Senegal, we have to look to the Senegalese market and the surrounding area, a market that does not exist and that we have to create. Most Africans don’t take holidays and those who do go to other continents. It is time to give Africa back to Africans. To do so, two major pitfalls must be overcome. The first is transport, which is very expensive by air, less so by road or train. This issue must be addressed as a priority. The second is accommodation, which is still not enough. Especially since the crisis is going to kill the palaces and 4-star hotels…
Finally, this crisis may be an opportunity to develop local tourism with a middle-class offer?
Indeed, there are still important slots like mine. The definition is simple: it is necessary to offer a proper room with a clean bathroom, separate from the room itself. To this, you have to add a fixed price either half or full board, a daily programme of simple entertainment (music, poetry, history…) and create a basket of excursions around the accommodation site. I believe in fact that the sea will remain a magnet for leisure for a long time, but it can be complemented by more intense holiday activities. We, for example, located 10 kilometers from the ocean and close to the airport, are heading towards a very clear sign: “Of course … Senegal ! ” or “West Africa” ! We want to offer on the continent, with our small unit serving as a gateway, excursions to the large area around Sindia. Amongst others, the north coast of Mauritania, the Senegal River with St. Louis and the discovery of the Peul culture, the region around Sindia, Casamance and Gambia, the paradise islands of Guinea-Bissau… And why not the “small parks” which do not rival those of Kenya, Rwanda or South Africa but are the only places to see animals in the region. Globally, the crisis will (finally) offer the very middle class of these countries a holiday whose structure will be very different from what we know before the crisis.
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