People, Travel

Tiny African Island State Banking on Tourism for Growth

Tiny African Island State Banking on Tourism for GrowthTiny African Island State Banking on Tourism for Growth

Situated off the Africa’s Atlantic coast, the twin island nation of Sao Tome and Principe was once the world’s leading producer of cocoa. Today, it is promoting itself as a tourist destination and people are realizing it has a lot to offer.

Sao Tome and Principe is Africa’s second smallest nation and one of its poorest. But good things can come in small packages, CCTV America reports.

With empty palm-fringed beaches and lush cocoa and coffee plantations, the tiny twin archipelago is slowly waking up to tourism.

“There aren’t many foreign visitors, which works in Sao Tome’s favor,” said Ana Secio, Portuguese tourist. “People here are very nice, despite the poverty we see. It’s a very safe country.”

Vacations here aren’t just about relaxing on tropical beaches. Tourists can explore the history of Sao Tome, once the world’s leading cocoa producer, at former plantations in the country.

Joao Carlos da Silva has transformed his family’s ancestral home into a restaurant, guest house and artist’s retreat called Roca Sao Joao de Angolares.

“We must create intelligent, creative tourism for people who like seeing people, the population, and to get to know the place’s history,” he said. “But at the same time, I say no to mass tourism.”

Sao Tome’s tourism authority said more than 18,000 people visited in 2014, a nearly 25% annual increase. They credit overseas promotion and visa waivers for some countries.

But some tour operators said that with inadequate flight availability, high borrowing costs and a lack of trained staff, there are still things that need to be improved.

Today, 90% of Sao Tome and Principe’s budget comes from foreign aid. Some hope the tourism boom will boost the country’s economy.