Senegalese tourism hot spot struggles without visitors

Salt wells in Sine-Saloum is a popular attraction. Picture: KaaBaa/Wikipedia.

Salt wells in Sine-Saloum is a popular attraction. Picture: KaaBaa/Wikipedia.

Published May 28, 2020


Lionel Lopez

grimaces as he looks at the stagnant green water in the bottom

of the pool at his hotel in Senegal's Saloum Delta. He drained

it after the global pandemic closed borders, bringing West

Africa's tourism industry to a standstill in mid-March.

The Sine-Saloum region has escaped the worst of the epidemic

that has so far infected more than 3,100 across the country. But

stringent travel restrictions have hurt those who live off what

they earn through hospitality, selling handicrafts, or ferrying

visitors through the delta's bird-rich mangrove forests.

"It makes you want to cry a little bit," Lopez said,

surveying the deserted complex of the hotel he runs, Les Cordons


He is able to keep paying his 15 employees a reduced wage

thanks to an emergency loan from the government to prop up an

industry that accounted for around four percent of GDP in 2017. But others

are not so lucky.

Across the silent lagoon, on Mar Lodj island, women who once

earned up to $17 (about R300) per day selling woven baskets and carved

souvenirs are struggling to support their families.

"This is all we had," said Amy Diouf, 50, dusting the unsold

wares in the courtyard of her reed-thatched home.

Even if international visitors are allowed to return soon,

the two-month hiatus means tourist numbers this year will be far

below the 1.7 million who holidayed in Senegal in 2019.

Some locals, like 32-year-old guide Pierre Diouf, hope they

can make up the shortfall by attracting more domestic visitors

whenever a ban on travel between regions is lifted.

He used to organise camping and bird-watching trips through

the Unesco-listed waterways, but now earns a quarter of what he

did, catching fish from his painted boat "The Saloum


"Even though it's tough, we keep smiling," he said in his

village of Dangane, where every restaurant on the sun-baked

waterfront stood empty. 


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