The head of the Cape Verdean island of Sal predicts within three years a local capacity to receive 750,000 tourists annually but points out the need to improve inter-island maritime transport to boost the sector.
Júlio Lopes made the prediction in an interview, indicating that at the moment the Sal receives around 500 thousand tourists per year, but once some hotels and resorts are completed the island will be able to receive 750 thousand tourists per year.
And with “a few more investments,” the mayor said only Salt Island could reach one million tourists a year in six years.
“Only those hotels under construction already represent a significant leap in terms of tourist supply and there are several other pipeline projects,” the mayor told, indicating that the investments being made in at least five hotels represent more than 20% of the current offer.
Regarding the island of Sal, Júlio Lopes said that the problem of land is still necessary: “It is imperative that the land is unblocked so that there can be more investment and we can quickly reach that goal of one million tourists.”
According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), Cape Verde received 716 thousand tourists last year, an increase of 11.2% over the previous year.
The island of Sal was the most sought after by tourists, representing about 47.9% of hotel entrances, followed by Boavista Island with 28.8% and Santiago with 10.9%.
The Cape Verdean Government estimates it will receive 1.14 million tourists a year by the end of the legislature in 2021 and has a Strategic Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development, where it expects to receive 3.15 million tourists by 2030.
For Júlio Lopes, Sal is making its contribution to “transforming Cape Verde into a major tourist destination”, understanding that the other islands have to work to also make their contribution to the country being a diversified tourist destination.
“That it is not only the flat islands but that reaches all the islands, according to the potentialities and the attractions of each of these regions,” he said.
The mayor highlighted the “great confidence” of investors and visitors, which mean that during the high season, from October to May, occupancy rates in Sal hotels are practically 100%.
“We have everything, we have clients, we have people who want to invest, there are all the conditions for Sal to continue to make a leap in tourism,” continued the mayor, for whom the important thing now is that tourism is inclusive and privileges the social and environmental impacts.
In order to make Salt an “island of international reference,” Júlio Lopes enumerated a series of investments in the island, ranging from sanitation, urban renewal, housing support and the “big project” that is the eradication of Alto São João, Good and High Land of Santa Cruz.
“We can not talk about sustainable tourism if part of the population lives in tents, this is unacceptable,” he said, adding that the Government, through the Tourism Fund, will invest 731 million escudos (6.6 million euros) to eradicate the tents in these areas.
In order for the country to benefit from tourism, Júlio Lopes considered that it is “fundamental and priority” for the Government to solve the problem of inter-island maritime transport.
“It is only with the resolution of the problem of maritime transport that tourism can have the multiplier impact in other economic areas, namely agriculture, livestock, small industries, crafts, creative industries,” he said.
“From the moment this problem is solved, you can produce wherever you want, in Brava, Boavista, Sal, Fogo, Santo Antão, São Vicente, that the product arrives on another island quickly,” he said, urging the Government to resolve also “some bureaucracy” that still exists in the country.
“It is important that public servants are quick to respond to the demands of entrepreneurs so that we can have a more agile business environment because we can not put a foreign or national investor on hold,” he said.
Júlio Lopes defended that the public official or head of the department of a division that delays a process “due to negligence” should be held accountable.
“You can not take an important process that attracts jobs to put in the drawer, this is to attempt against Cape Verde,” said the mayor, two years in office.