Tourism & Communications
Established tourist destination
With its stable environment and long-established democracy, Senegal is one of the most visited destinations in West Africa.
The country attracts nearly a million foreign arrivals each year, who spend over 600 million US dollars. Some of these visitors come on business, since Dakar is a well-established international conference centre.
Many European visitors (particularly the French) choose Senegal as a holiday destination, drawn by its tropical sandy beaches and history.
Gorée Island, a major centre of the slave trade, and the former French colonial capital of Saint-Louis are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Two of Senegal’s National parks – the Djoudj Bird Sanctuary and Niokolo-Koba – are also on the World Heritage list.
As with many countries offering luxury holidays, visitor numbers and revenues have been badly hit by the global recession. Unrest in the Casamance region of the southwest has also made travel to this part of Senegal precarious.
A vital sector
Tourism accounts for around a quarter of Senegal’s gross domestic product and the government has been hoping to attract more northern Europeans and Americans.
In urban centres, Senegal has a well-developed telephone system, with increasing coverage by mobile and internet services allowing both locals and visitors to stay connected.
Improving the tourist experience
Recently, the government of Senegal has invested in major infrastructure projects to improve the ‘tourist’ experience. This investment has led to a new airport and roads in Dakar, including a motorway which runs through to the centre of the capital.
However, the influx of foreign visitors also creates certain problems. For example, the popular beach destination of Petit Côte has been criticized for its child prostitution rings. Foreigners also find Senegal’s child beggars distressing. In Dakar, there are an estimated 50,000–100,000 young street beggars.
Some street children are affiliated to Islamic schools. Known as talibé (an Arabic term meaning disciple), the children follow an age-old practice of collecting coins for their religious leaders (called marabouts). However, many children are simply being exploited and the government has made moves to try to discourage the practice.