Dear Prime Minister, how do you welcome tourists in Cabo Verde?
Ulisses Correia e Silva: I would say: Welcome to the Land of Morabeza. Morabeza is the word that we use to express our hospitality. It represents the kindness and the joy of our people and its culture. Cabo Verde Islands are a unique, genuine and unforgettable destination, blessed by the sun throughout the year. Normally we say that you can’t explain Morabeza, you have to feel it.
What is the special charm of Cabo Verde?
Ulisses Correia e Silva: We are an archipelago made up of 10 islands with about 500,000 inhabitants. Each Island has its own peculiarities and specific features. Each one is different and unique. However, I would say that our history, people and our culture are distinctive and therefore charming. Because we are a Creole people, resulted from the crossing of many civilizations, our people and culture is rich and you can see it, for example, in our music, which is also a result of this fusion of cultures.
We are a country of many special charms. The main one is our history. UNESCO's World Heritage List, Cidade Velha, Historic Centre of Ribeira Grande, was the first European colonial outpost in the tropics. Located in the south of the island of Santiago, the town features some of the original street layout impressive remains including two churches, a royal fortress and Pillory Square with its ornate 16th century marble pillar.
Besides the history, everyone that visits Cabo Verde is immediately captivated by the diversity of the country. From the white sand beaches out of sight in Sal, Boa Vista and Maio, to the beauty of the mountains and valleys of Santo Antão, São Nicolau and Santiago, majestic volcano of Fogo, and the magic of the music and culture of São Vicente, it is impossible not to be charmed by the peace and calmness that we breathe in our country.
What are your favorite spots, beaches and festivals in Cabo Verde?
Ulisses Correia e Silva: There are plenty of options in Cabo Verde. I would suggest to everyone to explore it all. This is a country of 10 islands. We have monuments of world heritage, an amazing culture, beautiful beaches, an active volcano, great mountains and spectacular international music festivals.
I strongly recommend to the visitors to have a chance to attend the Carnival of Mindelo at São Vicente Islands (February), or Carnival of São Nicolau (February). They are astonishing. I would recommend as well our festivals and local celebrations that happen all around the country. You have music festivals taking place all over the country on our beautiful beaches, like Baia das Gatas in São Vicente, Santa Maria in Sal, Gamboa in Praia, among the other. Our people have a very special relationship to music and dance.
Today, Cabo Verde gained great notoriety with its Jazz festival, named Kriol Jazz Festival. It takes place in the heart of the capital city, Praia, and is already considered one of the twenty-five best jazz festivals in the world, where several national and international distinguished jazz musicians converge on a single stage.
What is your personal hint to the foreign visitors in Cabo Verde? What should nobody miss when visiting your country?
Ulisses Correia e Silva: I recommend to enjoy the Cabo Verde experience. Each destination within Cabo Verde has something distinctive and unique. You should discover and experience it. Enjoy the great cultural events, the diversity and the uniqueness of the landscape. Experience our great and rich cuisine, enjoy our music and be pleased by our people and artists.
What local dishes would you personally offer to a friend and visitor?
Ulisses Correia e Silva: Cabo Verde culinary routes is embedded in our history and culture. Our gastronomy is largely based on Portuguese cuisine, but with its own identity and local dishes. Fish and Seafood, with a great diversity of species, from lobster to octopus, tuna to grouper, are among our daily habits. However, there is no doubt that the national dish of the islands is Cachupa. A stew of corn and beans with fish or meat. It means home to Cape Verdeans everywhere.
There are also other dishes I would recommend. Xerem, dried corn pounded in mortar to the fineness of rice, is the staple of feasts. Kuskus, ground finer still and steamed in a distinctive ceramic pot called a binde, is a special treat served hot with butter and milk (kuskus ku leite). Modje from São Nicolau and Djagacida from Fogo.
Cabo Verde gastronomy is very diverse and for sure one of the best experiences you can get. It is healthy and tasteful at the same time, made with the heart and soul of our people and is a strong part of our hospitality.
When is the nicest time in a year to visit Cabo Verde?
Ulisses Correia e Silva: Cabo Verde is the ideal destinations to visit 12 months a year. We have an enjoyable climate, with sun and beaches open throughout the year. Cabo Verde has a lot to offer on each different period of the year. Specially related to cultural or sports events. We are a perfect winter scape for the Europeans and Americans, as well as an alternative hotspot for summer holidays. From the nature to the cultural life our visitors can enjoy it 365 days a year.
How important is tourism in Cabo Verde?
Ulisses Correia e Silva: Tourism is elected as one of the central columns of the Cape Verdean economy. Its importance is vital to the country’s overall economic and social growth. It accounts over 20 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and has been one of the main source of income of many Cape Verdean families. Apart from that, it has an essential contribution for the Country’s international notoriety, and is crucial for promoting and facilitating foreign investment.
The importance of Tourism is recognized by the businesses, institutions, organizations, by all public and private sector, and mainly by the people of our society. We are tolerant and open minded people. A country where the rule of law and human rights is being respected.
The sector maintained strong performance in all recent years, despite all the international challenges and today we have close to half a million international arrivals.
We believe that all the investments that the government is doing, and the priority that it represents for our country, will lead to more investments and therefore more visitors. We expect to double the number of visitors, while we are promoting private investments, building infrastructure and qualifying all related aspects.
We are developing and promoting a great business environment with transparency where investors have all the legal certainty in business. We are also working on support through funding programs and project development to help the small and medium businesses related to the tourism sector, to upgrade their capacities and respond to the needs of the market.
Cabo Verde is an emerging holiday destination. There is an ambitious program to develop tourism further on in your country. What are the main points of the development strategy?
Ulisses Correia e Silva: Cabo Verde wants to be a country useful to the world. We know our condition as a small island country. We have a diverse and important Diaspora spread on all continents. And we know that we have a privileged location right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, between Europe, Africa, North America, Central America and South America. Therefore, we are an economy that is specialized and focused on services.
Tourism is a central pillar of the economy. It has to take advantage of the opportunities from the country's position in the world, endorsing and encouraging a good business environment, and developing a strong and reliable private sector.
Cabo Verde targets to reach one million tourists a year by 2021, by strongly promoting good policies to create incentive to the private sector and foreign investments, establishing a competitive and attractive fiscal and tax system, create an excellent business environment, and developing a consistent chain of supply, with a modern agriculture and fisheries.
What should a visitor in Cabo Verde do that would make the local people smile? And what would the locals do, to make visitors smile?
Ulisses Correia e Silva: A smile is something that you normally a Cabo Verdean without doing anything. It’s genuine and part of us. I’m sure our visitors will experience it right from the first moment.
Our Morabeza has a smile embedded. We know that vacation is all about happiness – and that’s what we strive for. We are working for the happiness of our citizens as well as the happiness of our visitors.