By Lawrence Williams
AfriCaribbean Festival announced on Monday the signing of a partnership with Air Senegal as the official airline of its week-long annual festival held in Freetown. Through this partnership, Air Senegal will offer cheaper round-trip flights to festival attendees from New York, Paris, and Milan for the next three years, starting in December 2023.
This partnership is expected to bring more people to attend the event from different parts of the world and boost the tourism industry in Sierra Leone and the Africa region as a whole. Additionally, it will benefit Air Senegal by bringing in more passengers and helping to increase the airline’s presence in the region and the international travel market.
The AfriCaribbean Festival is an annual event that facilitates cultural exchanges between Africa and the Caribbean. With this partnership, festival goers will have a unique experience traveling to Freetown, making the event more accessible and creating new opportunities for African and Caribbean cultural exchange and collaboration.
Danna Labor, co-founder of the AfriCaribbean Festival, said the goal of the AfriCaribbean Festival is to bridge the borders between Africa and the Caribbean and promote a blend of African and Caribbean cultures with a view to marketing Sierra Leone’s tourism potentials and fostering socio-economic development in the country. He said the festival creates opportunities for African and Caribbean creatives, entrepreneurs, and industry professionals to connect and exchange ideas, build meaningful relationships, and collaborate on projects which will be beneficial for both African and Caribbean countries, as it will create new business opportunities and open up new markets for them.
In a release dated 29 May, Labor stated that they are “very delighted that Air Senegal could see their vision of combining African and Caribbean cultures,” adding that by “providing discounted flights, Air Senegal is making it easier for the global community to take part in the AfriCaribbean Festival and experience the rich culture of Sierra Leone”.
Air Senegal’s goal is to create a unique travel experience that allows participants to discover the culture, history, and tourism potentials of Sierra Leone. This will also give Sierra Leoneans the opportunity to experience the unique culture and traditions of the Caribbean and celebrate the AfriCaribbean Festival.
The airline’s head of marketing Penda Mbaye said they “look forward to making the journey more accessible to patrons around the world so that more people can experience the joy and spirit of the AfriCaribbean Festival”.
The Caribbean, also known as the West Indies, is a chain of islands stretching across the Caribbean Sea. It is a distinct region within the Americas comprising Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and many other countries.
The maiden AfriCaribbean Festival held in Freetown last December attracted hundreds of indigenous Sierra Leoneans as well as over 130 visitors from Jamaica, Barbados, Cayman Islands, and the United States – most of whom were Caribbean-born. It was a vibrant celebration of the cultural diversity and spirit of the Caribbean, with a wide variety of activities such as music, dance, art, and food. Carnival Meets Lantern, the signature event, featured ecstatic performances by local artistes and a parade of Caribbean culture by visitors. The performances included traditional Caribbean music, dance, art, and theatre. It also included varieties of floats, costumes, and decorations that represented the vibrant culture of the Caribbean.
“We had a lot of success with the maiden festival,” Danna said, adding that the event provided visitors with the opportunity to explore some of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, such as Bunce Island. Despite these successes, Danna said they strive to make each year a memorable experience, and so they seek continued cooperation from the Tourism Ministry and Freetown City Council, as well as the Sierra Leonean people. “It is only through this kind of collaboration that we can continue to create truly unique and enriching experiences for our visitors,” Danna concluded.