Tori Hymel, an IGC IGEP Fellow and Ph.D. student in the Planning, Governance, and Globalization program at Virginia Tech, takes a moment to send us a 'Postcard from the Field'. She writes to us from the back of a very bumpy truck to update us on her work in Sierra Leone.

Tori interviewing a person.

Written by Tori Hymel

I've been collaborating with the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Regent, Sierra Leone, to conduct semi-structured interviews with various groups involved in or impacted by tourism.

Currently, the country is working on developing its tourism industry to attract more visitors for ecotourism, diaspora tourism, and cultural tourism. Additionally, efforts are underway to promote domestic tourism. Establishing the tourism industry has been a goal for several decades, but challenges such as the decade-long civil war, the Ebola outbreak, and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, have made it difficult to get organized initiatives off the ground.

Tori interviewing a person.

I've conducted interviews with community members around Loma Mountain National Park, government tourism officials, and a few individuals working for tourism operators. I'm also planning to interview community members living around Jaibui Island, where Tacugama is currently building ecolodges for wildlife viewing, such as birds and pygmy hippos.

One major theme emerging from my interviews is the optimism people have regarding the potential economic benefits and job opportunities that could arise from the growth of tourism.