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One billion tourists, one billion opportunities’

02 Nov 2015

Joining the world to celebrate World Tourism Day, Destination Gambia, is obviously one of the tourism countries in Africa that places more emphasis on developing its tourism and hospitality industry which contributes not less than 16-20% to the country’s GDP.

Tourism industry in The Gambia is one of the sectors that can survive the country if everyone continues to work hard for the development of the industry with proper attention taking into consideration the theme for this year celebration – ‘One billion tourists, one billion opportunities.’

Destination Gambia continues to improve year-in-year-out in term of diversification, products, numbers of arrival, accommodation, good service delivery, in quality and standard among other requirements for the sector.

The country becomes the choice of holidaymakers from different countries because of the weather; facilities; the country’s hospitality; tourism sites plus its numerous rich cultural heritages and festivals and easy access to the destination without jet lag. In an interview with Adama Njie, Director of Marketing at Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) explained the important of tourism among other things.

DO: In brief how important is tourism to Destination Gambia?

Adama: The important of tourism to the destination cannot be over emphasised both in term of employment, foreign exchange and its contribution to the country’s GDP. These are three main important things actually derives from tourism. Last year there was Ebola crisis in few part of West Africa countries that many people have to retrench from the industry. This has bad effect on the entire continent because without tourism the level of foreign exchange will actually go down drastically. So, it is not a coincidence for tourism to be one of the most important industries in the country.

DO: As the world celebrates the 35th anniversary of World Tourism Day, can you tell us so far what The Gambia has able to achieved in tourism?

Adama: With tourism the country has achieved a lot. Look at the number of tourism establishments especially hotels since 1965 up till date there is massive development. If you want to compare how tourism actually started then with where it is now there is a wider margin. Taking into consideration the level of employment and the more hotels establish the more people are employ directly or indirectly. More other achievements, is some of the infrastructural development over the years particularly from 1994 to date. There is progress and you can see that with tourism, things are moving that everyone is convinced that there are achievements and they are really and evidence for everyone to see.

DO: In effort to continue developing the sector in The Gambia, can you tell us the activities that GTBoard embarks on in the industry when it comes to training, workshops, skills, creativity among other things for tourism practitioners?

Adama: Not only the Gambia Tourism Board but the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and other stakeholders have taken different strides in term of capacity building, training, attending relevant trade fair, and diversifying our products. Example of this product is fishing competition, food and beverage festival, bird fair festival slated for October 2016. Bird fair has never happen in Africa before and Destination Gambia will be the first to host it for the first time. All these and many more other products like the Roots International Homecoming Festival and other cultural festivals. The Gambia tourism activities can be check out through the national calendar of event on our website – www.go-gambia.com www.visitthegambia.gm

DO: The Gambia tourism sector has become a mentor and role model to some other countries in Africa; many want to learn from the country’s experience. How important is this to GTBoard and tourism fraternity in the country and how do you think this standard can be maintained?

Adama: Very important that we have reviewed hotel standard and classification. Many countries in Africa look at The Gambia as a champion in term of tourism. They are right! This is because they’ve seen the massive development the country has achieved since tourism was known in the destination. The GTBoard under its Ministry has MoU with NTDC because of our experience in tourism that other countries want to learn best practice from us. Ths is actually one thing that we can be proud about. And recently we have some delegation from Ghana and they are as well looking up to having cooperation with the Gambia because of our ways of practicing tourism in the country. We will maintain the as we will continue to do what we know how to do best as we are seeing as Tourism Ambassador in term of tourism development throughout Africa.

DO: In the Smiling Coast, the new winter tourist season 2015/2016 just unfolds and the world celebrating 35th World Tourism Day with theme ‘One billion tourists, one billion opportunities.’ Is there any hope that a lot will be achieved for this year’s winter tourist season 2015/2016 if everything goes well? and what is the assurance?

Adama: We are optimistic that this just started season will be better than last year. The Gambia could have surpassed the 2013/2014 tourist arrival in the last season if not the Ebola crisis in 2014/2015 winter tourism season. But we are very optimistic and well prepared and if all things go well 2015/2016 is going to be a better season compare to 2014/2015 winter tourism season. We would continue with the trend whatever activity we start to counter or to mitigate the negative mentality of the westerners concerning Ebola virus as The Gambia is very free and not effected.

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