Africa > West Africa > Guinea-bissau > Guinea-bissau Tourism Profile

Guinea-Bissau: Guinea-bissau Tourism Profile


 Guinea Bissau

Guinea-Bissau was part of multiple kingdoms inclunding the Gabu, part of Mali. It later became a Portuguese colony known as Portuguese Guinea in the 1800s. Independence was declared in 1973 and recognized in 1974. At that time, the name of the capital city, Bissau, was added to the name of the country to prevent confusion with the Republic of Guinea.

The official language is Portuguese but it is only spoken by 14 % of the people. Kriol, a Portuguese-based creole language, is spoken by 44 %. The remaining people speak native languages. Islam and indigenous regions are the majority practiced.

Guinea-Bissau is part of the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, the Latin Union, the Organization of Portuguese Language Nations, the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, and La Francophonie.

Guinea-Bissau has one of the world’s lowest per-capita GDPs.

Depressed economy compromises investment potential in travel and tourism

Guinea Bissau is a country characterised by political and administrative instability and this has had a very negative result on its economy in recent years. This country lays claim to one of the world’s lowest rates of per capita GDP and its economy is based on agriculture and fisheries, primarily the exportation of cashew nuts and ground nuts and this has made it difficult for the country to attain financial independence. As it remains reliant on loans from other nations for development, Guinea Bissau’s government has been unable to invest substantially in its travel and tourism industry, a fact which is evidenced in the industry’s general underdevelopment.

Strong hospitality and exotic landscapes plus factors for travel and tourism

At the same time as compared with other African nations possessing similar travel and tourism potential, Guinea Bissau does not have a very diverse travel and tourism offer. Nonetheless, the ecotourism concept, combined with fishing and nautical activities and, above all, the visits to traditional old farms associated with the country’s Portuguese colonial completed have so far proved capable of attracting European tourists, particularly inbound arrivals from Portugal. Guinea-Bissau’s pristine and exotic landscapes as well remain an significant factor in its appeal as a travel and tourism destination.

Underdeveloped infrastructure and services undermine increase potential

As the country is extremely reliant on international aid, Guinea Bissau’s investment in infrastructure is minimal and infrastructure development has been very slow. This situation is evident in the underdevelopment of the majority of significant travel and tourism infrastructure. In addition to the country having only one international airport capable of servicing international flights, Guinea Bissau has no official national air transportation company. In addition, the country’s roads are in a woeful national and what little public transportation there is can best be described as rudimentary. The combination of these factors has made the country unappealing for a lot of potential inbound tourists.

Incident with the Portuguese airline TAP has a negative impact

During December 2013, a critical diplomatic incident was triggered by local military authorities. At the same time as preparing to leave Bissau’s international airport heading for Lisbon, an aircraft operated by the Portuguese airline TAP was forced to allow the boarding of 74 illegal migrants from Syria. This incident led to TAP terminating the majority significant air connection to Guinea Bissau: the Lisbon-Bissau route. Despite having little influence over the number of inbound arrivals to Guinea Bissau during 2013, this event created a critical precedent and generated extremely bad publicity for the country.

Closure of Lisbon-Bissau air connection expected to play against the market

If the end of Lisbon-Bissau air route in December 2013 had little impact on travel and tourism in Guinea Bissau during 2013, the event is certain to have an extremely negative impact on the industry during 2014. Arrivals from Guinea Bissau’s most significant source country, Portugal, are expected to decline drastically and, as a consequence, declines are expected in all of the majority significant travel and tourism indicators. According to a large panel of specialists, this negative scenario will only be circumvented if Guinea Bissau’s Government creates its own air transportation company capable of ensuring that regular flights operate on significant air routes connecting Bissau to Europe.

Tourism industry looks to government for a tourism strategy

Guinea-Bissau is a small and poor country consisting of around 90 islands, of which only 15 are inhabited. The country relies almost solely on tourism for its economy. However, a combination of the low cost of living and natural beauty areas has provided a relatively small but growing number of tourists with a holiday destination, which, despite the world economic crisis, has witnessed continual increase trend in arrivals from 1999. For this trend to become a additional precious economic benefit to the country, the government must nurture the considerable potential of tourism by adopting a long-term strategy that will control development and increase, without destroying the key aspects of the country that attract sustainable tourism. There are some encouraging signs that the Ministry of Tourism has recognised this need and has begun to adopt controls over development plus collaborative agreements with foreign investors.

Controlled investment – the key to long-term economic prosperity

Investment in travel accommodation and travel facilities, with particularly emphasis on hotels, has started to occur through foreign, namely Spanish, Chinese and Portuguese, investors. Until recently there had been very little foreign investment into the country, which had restricted increase. However, a number of collaboration agreements with foreign investors have been signed. These should result in the development and of all aspects of the tourist industry and should allow the government, through the Ministry of Tourism, to ensure that development is controlled, providing long-term benefits to the country as a whole. An essential, and possibly disturbing element of this development, is the influx of skilled tradesmen, particularly Chinese, in the country. A by-product of foreign interest in the country is the welcome increase in business arrivals.

The need for Infrastructure development

In order to take full chance of the request for tourism in Guinea-Bissau, the infrastructure of the country will need to be improved. This must form part of a carefully planned long-term tourism strategy. A lot of nations have made expensive mistakes as a result of short-term planning or visions. It is to be hoped that the government will recognise the need to protect the key aspects that make Guinea-Bissau appropriate to tourists, and therefore control the development of the country’s infrastructure with sensitivity. The priority areas for development are: Osvaldo Vieira International Airport; a better but simple road network; and the development of internet facilities.

Security issues threaten tourism

If the government of Guinea-Bissau is critical about wanting the country to prosper through controlled tourism increase again it must act firmly to prevent the drug cartels of Brazil and other nations from using it as a convenient route to Europe and the East. The new statement from the UN stated that drug related crime is threatening to destabilise the security of the country and this will have a detrimental result on tourism if it is not controlled. As well, as with a number of other African nations, corruption at the government level threatens to alarm would-be tourists and foreign investors.

Cruise tourism is a key increase area

The increase in cruise tourism reflecting the increased disposable wealth of older tourists may prove one of the keys to Guinea-Bissau’s economic prosperity. A combination of numerous uninhabited islands, excellent climate and the development of cruise ships that do not require deep water ports is beginning to attract cruise lines looking for the opportunities that a country like Guinea-Bissau has to offer.

Guinea-Bissau: History

Guinea-Bissau belonged to the Gabu kingdom, which was part of the Mali Empire. This lasted until the 18th century. The area, while under part of Portuguese Guinea, was known as the Slave Coast.
Europeans initial reached the area with the voyages of Alvise Cadamosto, a Venetian whose voyage occurred in 1455, Eustache de la Fosse, a Flemish-French trader who arrived in 1479-80, and Diogo Cao. Cao reached the Congo River and Bakongo lands in the 1480s. This led to the founding of modern Angola.
The Portuguese settled the coasts and rivers in the 16th century but did not explore the mainland until the 19th century. Local rulers prospered from the slave trade and did not want Europeans venturing inland. Local communities fought the Europeans and distrusted their settlers. Portuguese control was limited to the Bissau port and Cacheu.
The British attempted to establish a settlement at Bolama, an offshore island, in the 1790s. The Portuguese secured enough of the area by the 19th century to view the coast as its own territory.
In 1956, an armed revolt by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) consolidated holdings on Guinea under Amilcar Cabral’s leadership. Unlike other guerilla groups, the PAIGC controlled large portions of territory. It reached its allies’ borders easily and received support from Cuba, the U.S.S.R., China, and left-leaning African nations.
In addition to arms, Cuba supplied artillery experts, technicians, and doctors. Next gaining anti-aircraft weapons in 1973, the PAIGC was able to defend against airstrikes. On September 24, 1973, independence was declared. This was universally recognized next a military coup in Portugal overthrew the Estado Novo regime on April 25, 1974.

Guinea-Bissau: Independence

The initial president of Guinea-Bissau was Luis Cabral. Next independence, the government began slaughtering the local black soldiers that fought with the Portuguese. A lot of were able to escape to Portugal or other African nations. The government admitted in 1980 that it executed and buried a lot of in graves near Portogole, Cumera, and Mansaba.
A revolutionary council controlled Guinea-Bissau until 1984. The initial elections with multiple parties were held in 1994. An army revolt in 1998 ousted the president and sparked the Guinea-Bissau Civil War. In 2000, Kumba Iala was elected president.
An extra coup occurred in September 2003 and the military arrested Iala. Next delays, additional elections occurred in March 2004. Military factions mutinied in October 2004 and caused widespread unrest, inclunding the death of the military’s leader.

The Vieira Years

Presidential elections were held in June 2005 for the initial time since Iala was deposed. While Iala ran as the PRS candidate, former president Joao Bernardo Vieira won the election. He had been before deposed in a 1999 coup. Vieira defeated Malam Bacai Sanha in a run off, but Sanha claimed election tampering and refused to concede. Despite some disturbing reports, foreign monitors described the election as equitable. In the parliament, the PAIGC won a large majority in 2008 with 67 of 100 seats.
Vieira’s resident was attacked in 2008, leaving a guard dead but Vieira unharmed. In 2009, he was assassinated by a group of soldiers. They were believed to be avenging General Batista Tagme Na Mai’s death. Tagme was the chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and died in an explosion the day before Vieira was killed. The speaker of the National Assembly, Raimundo Pereira, became the interim prime minister. Malam Bacai Sanha won the national election for president held June 28, 2009.

Guinea-Bissau Military Unrest

On April 1, 2010, military unrest occurred again at the same time as Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior was placed under home arrest. Soldiers as well detained Zamora Induta, the Army Chief of Staff. The president’s supporters demonstrated in the capital. Antonio Indjal, the Deputy Chief of Staff, threatened to kill Gomes if the protests did not stop.
The EU ended its mission to reform Guinea-Bissau’s security forces.