May 15, 2009, 6:47 AM
A conference on Sustainable Tourism organised by Thomas Cook in collaboration with the Gambia Tourism Authority (GTA) recently ended at the Kairaba Beach Hotel. The aim of the conference was to improve product offering in The Gambia through improving product quality, health and safety, product diversity and sustainability.
In her statement delivered at the conference hall, GTA Director-General Binta Jobe said the Authority is proud to be working with the Thomas Cook Group to promote the destination based on its "sustainable tourism credentials."
She added that the GTA has recognised that sustainability is key to marketing the destination differently over similar destinations.
Director-General Jobe went on to further state that “the Gambia Tourism Master Plan” has advised that resources should be concentrated on further developing the core value elements of the Gambia Tourism product.
These are, for example, the people, the history and culture, the cuisine, beaches, music, arts and craft.
These cannot be achieved and sustained without the implementation of reliable assured quality of health and hygiene, safety and security.
Increasingly, hotels and resorts are themselves recognizing the importance of health and safety, and are aware that tour operators favor those suppliers that make a genuine effort to maintain health and safety standards within their properties.
The GTA boss revealed that travel agents and tour operators have various measures available to them to screen suppliers of the destination. The Federation of Tour Operators, for example, is an industry champion in the field of health and safety, and many tour operators go further by employing their own inspectors to monitor the standards of their suppliers at destinations.
Mrs. Binta Jobe emphasised that customers are beginning to look for a more meaningful holiday experience, and that they want to spend time getting to know the destination, its people and its culture.
We believe that the best way to inform customers about this is through the tour operators as they have websites and brochures where these unique selling points can be promoted.
This not only attracts new customers, but retains existing customers. Most importantly, the tour operators are directly responsible to their clients for ensuring that suppliers provide goods and services of appropriate quality and standard.
At the level of the Gambia Tourism Authority, the GTA Director-General added that her office wants to advocate for a sustainable tourism culture within the
She noted that the potential benefits are numerous citing, for example, reduce water and energy consumption, lower operational costs, improved staff moral, increased employee retention, improved community relationships and benefits.