Now that stability has returned to Congo after years of civil strife, the country has embarked on a serious return to the international tourism scene. The government is drawing up a master plan, which identifies the critical link between conservation and tourism and recommends the type and level of development, which should be undertaken to ensure sustainable growth.
To an extend, Congo’s long period of self-imposed isolation has been a good thing. The intemperate courting of the mass market passed Congo by so the country is not faced with the painful task of repairing past damages and excesses. On the down side, the Congolese people were denied a lucrative source of foreign exchange and overseas wildlife enthusiasts were excluded from savoring the unique natural wonders of Congo, in particular the chance to observe primates, such as Mountain Gorillas and Low land Gorillas, whose sadly depleted populations make them such a rare sight in Africa.
The lessons of other African countries have been taken to heart, and the incursions of visitors, particularly to view the endangered gorilla groups, are strictly controlled. Congo boasts some of the most stunning scenery, from its shimmering lakes, lofty mountains, mysterious forests and game parks teeming with game.
The needs of tourists are now served by increasing numbers of new hotels and comfortable lodges, as the government permits the greater involvement of the private sector within a disciplined framework. But the traditional hospitality of the Congolese people is another important draw card. Despite the trials and tragedies of two decades of strife, indeed perhaps because of them, the country’s population is now united in a common purpose, which includes providing a warm welcome to foreign guests. Even in the smallest villages, the people go out of their way to make tourists feel at home. The attractions of Congolese were identified by several explorers including Stanley and Livingstone.
Real peace was not to return until negotiation from the government between different armed groups. Population is about 39 million inhabitants, with an esteemed area of 236,040 square kilometers. French is the official spoken language; Kiswahili and others are widely spoken as national and local languages in Congo.