Gabon: Tourism Marketing Strategy and Action Plan
Conseil National des Parcs Nationaux de Gabon/National Parks of Gabon
(via EU Programme Sectoriel de Valorisation des Aires Protégées/The Environment & Development Group – 2005/6)
Gabon has some of the last remaining large rainforest in the world. Entire eco-systems and the survival of communities in many central African countries are dependent on this rainforest in the Congo basin. Worldwide, the only other rainforest areas of such significance as the Congo basin are in Borneo and the Amazon basin. In an attempt to protect this vast natural wonder, President Bongo declared 13 national parks in 2002, covering 10% of the country’s land mass.
But protecting these trees, plants, animals, birds and landscape came at a cost. So, eco-tourism was seen as a means of contributing towards the maintenance and development of these parks. A strategy was required to help Gabon, a country that was relatively unknown and unexplored by all but a handful of wildlife biologists and plant scientists, to attract the attention of visitors who would not only appreciate what the country offered, but who would also leave it as they found it.
But a country that had hardly opened its doors to tourism also had a long way to go in developing its tourism infrastructure. Customer skills would also need to be developed amongst those who would receive the anticipated growth in well-travelled, demanding and curious visitors from developed nations. Building an understanding of tourism and capacity amongst key tourism and conservation professionals was an integral part of this project. (See also Organisational Structure/Institutional Strengthening and Eco-/Ethno-Tourism Strategy).
- We developed a marketing strategy, with key Gabonese tourism and conservation professionals from Gabontour (Ministry), the National Parks office, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International and others
- This identified Gabon’s key geographical markets and the main segments within each country, such as wildlife enthusiasts, birders, “Africa-philes” and “destination pioneers”, who were seeking new experiences in relatively untravelled countries.
- The marketing strategy had to be sustainable, in terms of contributing towards long-term economic development and employment, minimising social and cultural conflict, and enhancing environmental conservation.
- A cost-effective action plan, with clear targets and costs, was required to translate this strategy into action. This had to be realistic, impactful and affordable, reflecting likely market demand over the medium-term, as well as the availability of promotional funds.
- A sustainable tourism marketing strategy, which would contribute to long-term economic, social and cultural development, and environmental conservation
- Increased understanding of the tourism supply chain, and how to market Gabon internationally, amongst tourism and conservation professionals in Gabon
- A cost-effective action plan, with realistic targets and practical suggestions