#Article (Archive)

Can Tourism Move Forward?

Apr 8, 2009, 7:34 AM

In his address to the nation at the State opening of the National Assembly, His Excellency the President of the Republic, hit some important keynotes and plans on the economic development of this country. One of such points was in relation to the Tourism sector.

According to President Jammeh, his government will continue to aspire towards the development of tourism in this country.

In his own words, efforts will be made to transform The Gambia to a "highly competitive tourist destination. Efforts will also continue for enhancing and consolidating traditional sources, and penetrating new markets especially in Central and Eastern Europe."

At this point in time, Tourism registers 16% of our GDP. If the plan outlined by the president is implemented effectively, it is our belief that this sector's contribution to GDP could reach or even surpass the 20% mark by the end of the next financial year. The basis of our conviction rests partly in the fact that despite the world financial crisis, tourists still continue to come to The Gambia; this trend can be attributed to the favourable climate, the beautiful unspoilt beaches, the striking peace and warmth of the Gambian people generally, and the very reasonable cost of goods and services. Another factor is the foreign exchange earnings from Tourism and taxes that accrue from activities, especially hotel taxes on accommodation and sales. The International airport also brings in revenue from airport landing fees and charges, sale of fuel, and airport tax.

Revenue from sales and bed tax for example, could appreciate substantially (at least by 20%) if package tours are curtailed to a minimum. After all, it is the country that should benefit more than some wealthy foreign companies and middlemen.

While efforts are made to promote the sector by attracting visitors and improving our tourism infrastructure, steps should however also be taken to eliminate obstacles to highly successful Tourism. When we speak of obstacles, we refer to some of the setbacks to enabling the tourist sector having a problem-free, enjoyable experience, and good value for money in the various areas of Tourist expenditure or spending, at the country level.

One very disturbing area of course is the "menace" of bumsterism. On one occasion a reporter witnessed just outside African Village Hotel, three youths forcing their offer of assistance to two tourists to shop around the Bakau supermarket and local market. In fact they attempted to snatch the couple's handbags. In another occasion a youth convinced some tourists on the goodness of the product 'diw ngallam' (in Wollof) and 'bambutulo' (in Mandinka) but ended ripping them off by giving only three small lumps of the product and demanding, forcefully, 5 Pounds Sterling per lump, for the "precious" product. Very often, young bumsters just pester visitors unnecessarily, forcing their company or promising some times dubious sales or good time entertainment.

Such youths and such conduct, do nothing but drive away tourists and hamper tourism development. If tourism is to develop and flourish, the government should take effective steps for solving all these problems of the sector.

"Everybody is always in favour of general economy and particular expenditure".

Antony Eden