This month we begin a new series, Travel Tips which will provide compact but useful information to business and leisure travellers to various African destinations. In this, the first article in the series, Elizabeth Booth follows up on last month's piece on the tourist attractions of Cameroon and provides additional information on visa requirements, vaccinations, hotels etc.
While the West African country of Cameroon has now recognised the importance of tourism as a foreign-exchange earner and is now actively targeting the English-speaking world (See African Business, January 1996), the bureaucracy is still firmly wedded to the bad old days.
One of the greatest hurdles facing a potential traveller is a nightmare of visa requirements. Any prospective business traveller needs letters of introduction, return tickets and money (around [pounds]40 or $60 per visa). They also need time and patience to persuade the embassy to grant the application.
Most visitors use an agency to speed up the process but that is more expensive. Business leaders in Cameroon would like to see visa applications made easier but the Government will not ease the regulations while other countries apply stringent tests to Cameroon residents.
Having negotiated that hurdle, travelling to Cameroon is relatively easy since there are four flights a week from Paris, one from London and one from Brussels. There are also regular connections to and from the USA via Paris with national carrier Cameroon Airlines. Regional travel is also convenient, again with Cameroon Airlines aggressively promoting their services to Johannesburg, Lagos and beyond.
With Germany, the UK and most recently France as the country's former colonial powers, Cameroon has a cosmopolitan feel, particularly in commercial capital Douala and state capital Yaounde. The country has a bustling commercial culture with people friendly and eager to do business; in contrast to its more aggressive neighbour Nigeria, where oil is king.
Cameroon, heavily dependent on oil has embarked on a programme of diversification and is keen to expand its industrial base. Tourism, the fastest growing industry in the world, is finally being given its due attention and not before time - last year the country attracted a mere 134,000 holiday-makers but the potential is far greater. Rural life, from the pygmies in the south to the nomads of the north, combined with the stunning scenery of places like Rhumsiki and the game...