The only country in the Sahel spared by the attacks for eleven years and open without restriction to lovers of the desert, Mauritania is relaunching its tourist activities.
It is a thrill in a tourism sector struggling since the appearance of the Covid-19. Mauritania, one of the gateways to the Sahara Desert, is preparing to welcome tourists again.
A revival made possible by the establishment, within a month, of a weekly charter flight. These flights, scheduled from December 10, 2021 to April 2, 2022, will be operated by the French company ASL Airlines France and will link Paris to Atar, a city in west-central Mauritania, capital of the Adrar region.
The return of tourists will bring guides, drivers, cooks and camel drivers to life.
The pandemic put a stop to the development of hiking tourism which had attracted 2,380 visitors in 2017-2018, 3,860 people in 2018-2019 but only 2,500 people in 2019-2020, a season interrupted by sanitary confinement. Before Covid-19, the sector was targeting 10,000 tourists per year with the ambition of conquering Spanish customers.
Ensure the security
The forecasts of the authorities as those of the Mauritanian and French travel agents count on the return of 2,900 travelers thanks to twelve confirmed flights, to which could be added four additional flights in case of affluence (the price of the return flight varies between 480 and 620 euros depending on the period). The first flight, on December 10, is full because it allows its passengers to participate in the festival of ancient cities organized in Ouadane (north).
“I am optimistic about the success of this recovery,” said Naha Mint Mouknass, Minister of Trade, Industry, Handicrafts and Tourism. Once again, we will make sure that our visitors see the difference between Mauritania and the other countries of the Sahel and that they feel completely safe there. We no longer require them to perform a PCR test on arrival on our soil, but I have every confidence in the fact that they will follow the instructions for vaccination and health precautions. “
The renaissance of tourism is eagerly awaited in these arid lands. “The populations who welcome us have been living in real despair for a year and a half,” explains Kadi Medhi, co-founder of the Mauritanides Voyages agency. They suffer from the persistent drought and a very poor date harvest. Their hope rests on the return of tourists who will support guides, drivers, cooks and camel drivers. “
Tourism is a factor of stability and vital benefits in these bloodless areas
On a practical level, during stays, it takes three dromedaries for a tourist, which explains why a camel driver can earn 1,000 euros in two weeks and thus ensure months of subsistence for his family.
Rising fuel prices
The prime contractor for this takeover is Maurice Freund, the creator of the Point Afrique travel agency, which brought Voyageurs du monde, Terres d’aventure, Allibert, Nomades and La Balaguère on board the adventure.
Despite the risks of a resumption of the pandemic and the sharp increase in fuel prices, Maurice Freund fought, together with the Mauritanian authorities, to bring, he said, “a little development, a factor of stability and of vital benefits in these economically drained areas via reasoned tourism ”.
The circuits offered this season will survey the Adrar desert as well as the historic sites of the towns of Chinguetti or Ouadane, where caravans traveling up from Timbuktu to Morocco stopped until the 19th century. The Desert Train, which takes the railway line through which iron ore from the Zouerate mines is transported to the port of Nouadhibou, is also included in the catalog.