Destination Benin, yesterday and today!

The world has become a global community, driven by increasingly intense mobility thanks to the prowess of technology in the transportation industry. The reasons which motivate this ebb and flow of the world’s population are diverse and tourism plays an increasingly preponderant role, certainly thanks to the information industry which increasingly brings the wonders of all the regions of the now global village: the wonders of Antarctica, the secrets of the Himalayas, the forests of the Amazon, the Great Wall of China, the history of the Amazons of the kingdom of Danhomey (Benin), the history of Ouidah and the Slave Route in Benin, etc. Traveling is now an almost basic human need.

Benin has not escaped “the tourist conflagration of the world”, according to an expression dear to the geographer G. Cazes. After a long period of being branded as a “foil country” linked to the Marxist-Leninist ideology carried by the military regime in power (1972-1989), Benin has seen its number of tourist arrivals increase regularly since the start of the decade of the 1990s. It was from the year 1995 that the number of arrivals in Benin crossed the symbolic mark of 500,000 visitors, reaching for the first time the figure of 580,000 tourists, according to statistics from the World Bank. This figure will experience constant growth to reach the peak of 1,155,000 visitors in the year 2000. Some specialists explain this surge in tourist fever by the desire of President Mathieu KEREKOU, then in power and his government, to promote memorial tourism. associated with the neo-evangelist movement very popular in the African American community of the United States of America. There were several initiatives in this direction, including the famous Gospel and Roots festival and the creation of the Agency for the Management of the Social Dimension and Development (AGDSD).This new situation at the time found a great echo in the black American community who had massively arrived to visit Benin in search of their African roots. Then followed several years of decline in the number of visitors, which amounted to only 975,000 tourists in 2006 when President YAYI BONI took power. The Benin destination experienced a resurgence of interest since the advent of President Yayi’s regime, successively posting figures of 1,010,000 and 1,027,000 visitors respectively for the years 2007 and 2008. Then followed several years of decline to reach the modest figure (compared to previous years) of 292,000 visitors when President Patrice TALON took power in 2016. Some specialists explain these two phenomena of growth and decline in the number of visitors under the mandate of President Boni YAYI on the one hand, the great hope aroused by the coming to power of a technocrat coupled with the makings of a financial economist. This has certainly aroused a certain interest from the business world, and on the other hand, by the slow pace of economic and social reforms likely to encourage massive investments in the country. Benin experienced a slight increase in interest from foreign visitors upon the arrival of President Patrice TALON in power. The figures available according to World Bank statistics successively display the numbers of 307,000, 322,000 and 337,000 visitors respectively for the years: 2017, 2018 and 2019. Since then, the regime of President Patrice TALON has worked hard to restore the image from the destination Benin. He has elevated the tourism industry sector to the forefront of the country’s economic priorities. Heavy structuring investments are made and strong initiatives are taken such as: the repatriation of artistic works and royal heritage from the kingdom of Danxomey (Abomey) of France, the Renovation and construction projects of museums and major tourist sites, particularly in the cities of Abomey, Ouidah, Cotonou, Nikki de Porto-Novo, without forgetting sanitation and urban development still in progress and which mobilize enormous financial and human resources, etc. With these heavy investments, these bold reforms and these strong initiatives, the government of President Patrice TALON aims to reach the very symbolic figure of 3,000,000 visitors by 2027 and 2028.

The desire to become a recognized destination therefore represents a challenge. When Fidel Castro opened the doors to Cuba, the country moved into the category of the top 10 destinations in the world. In West Africa, Benin ranks sixth behind Guinea-Bissau.

Furthermore, in terms of reception capacity and traffic, around 6,000 beds were available in the recent past. Today, on a national scale, Benin has more than 10,000 beds, has nearly 20 museums with a landing capacity of 1,500,000 passengers since 2021.

The attractiveness of a destination is no small task, especially in the very competitive environment of West Africa where new destinations are attracting more and more people such as the Cape Verdean archipelago. We must adopt as a strategy the consumption of our tourism products ourselves (visiting museums, visiting sites, traveling within the country, etc.), to give momentum to our “view” numbers, visit.

Tourism can, under certain conditions, due to a rich and varied heritage, constitute hope in the search for sustainable solutions to development problems.

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