Gabon bets on green gold

Lat 5e The Tour of Gabon stage took the riders from Congo to Angondje, at the foot of the soccer stadium on the outskirts of the Gabon capital. 103 km were covered at top speed, the record hourly average from the last edition in 2020 (46.85 km/h) was largely updated on January 27 with 49.54 km/h. At the finish Spain’s Miguel Angel Fernandez of Burgos-BH won by several lengths ahead of France’s Geoffrey Soupe (Total Energies) and Eritrea’s Henok Mulubrha, with the peloton chasing them. Leader Jason Tesson retains his yellow jersey, four seconds ahead of teammate Geoffrey Soupe.

A new sponsor for the leader’s tunic

Gabon Oil, the National Hydrocarbon Company of Gabon, was the title sponsor of the yellow jersey, which topped the general classification during the last editions of Tropicale. For this new edition, a completely different partner is sponsoring the golden coat: Discover Gabon, the latest Eden, the national tourism promotion brand launched just a week ago. A change that is not insignificant and reflects the country’s desire to no longer rely solely on the exploitation of hydrocarbons from its basement. “Gabon’s oil reserves are dwindling and for several years now the Gabonese president and his government have wanted to diversify the country’s economy,” explains Théophile Albert, head of the presidential mission overseeing the file. President Omar Bongo has decided to rely especially on the tourism sector…”

Although the project is led by the presidency, it includes three ministries (Tourism, Investment Promotion, Water and Forests) as well as several parastatals such as ANPN (National Agency for National Parks) or Agatour (Gabon Tourism Agency). “We also work with private partners and NGOs, such as Space for Giants, which work to protect the environment and protect elephants,” continues Théophile Albert.

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Environmental protection and tourism development

With approximately 90% of its national territory in primary forests, located in the heart of the Congo Basin and with 13 national parks protecting 11% of the national territory, Gabon intends to take advantage of its environment, protected from the extremes of modern nature. to develop high-level tourism while protecting biodiversity and ecosystems around the world. Especially since the country has key tourism assets such as leatherback turtle nesting from October to January, the highest concentration of forest elephants, but one of the last populations of panthers and gorillas in Africa… “Gabo’s strategy, for example, turtle nesting in October to January, is the most the concentration of many forest elephants… revolutionizing the tourism industry by offering eco-responsible tourism products that are more affordable for the local population,” the consultant continues.

Apart from the commercial brand that aims to get people to discover the country and its riches, the program aims to improve road and hotel infrastructure, along with making it easier to obtain visas. Teofil Albert notes: “We are looking for potential investors to invest in national parks to create eco-lodges with very high environmental standards: local wood and materials. We are also working with the Ministry of Vocational Education to try to create specific sectors related to tourism. »

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100,000 tourists annually by 2025

Inspired by the tourism promotion programs Visit Rwanda or Explore Uganda, Discover Gabon aims to create a specific identity in Gabon to identify it and make it visible in the international tourism market. Since 2015, a total of 7,250 people have applied for tourist visas (not including relatives of foreigners arriving in the country, who now only need an invitation letter). The goal is to reach 100,000 tourists per year by 2025. “Unlike a country like Kenya, we are not targeting mass tourism, but more managed tourism, so we are primarily targeting a high-end international clientele,” notes Theophile Albert. First of all, because there is not enough infrastructure in the country, there are environmental problems. »

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A natural partnership with La Tropicale

Discover Gabon was released three days before the launch of Tropical, which coincidentally has no debt. “There was a temporary fit and it was perfect to try to be a little more visible in terms of timing, especially internationally,” admits the project manager. Also because we aim to develop multifaceted tourism around the environment, but also culture, sports or business. It was important for us to be seen by the media, especially in the programs broadcast on international TV channels. »

Benjamin Burlot, Senior Coordinator of the event, explains: “This is a partnership that came naturally as the launch dates of Discover Gabon coincided with the launch of La Tropicale. Since its first edition in 2006, La Tropicale has highlighted the Gabonese area and its preserved landscapes, particularly through television productions. This sequence of goals has brought us closer together and this year our yellow shirt has the colors of Discover Gabon, the event’s new partner. Daily coverage of the competition is broadcast daily on Canal+ Afrique and TV5 Monde, while L’Équipe 21 will broadcast a 52-minute summary a few days after the event.

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