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Gambia Tourism/Travel Industry registers success at WTM in UK

Nov 19, 2010, 1:57 PM | Article By: Mamudou Max Jallow - United Kingdom

Under the distinguished leadership of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture together with The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority and other stakeholders, the Gambian Tourism/Travel Industry has registered another significant success at the World Travel Market (WTM) trade fare held at the ExCel centre in London from 8 to11 November 2010.

The WTM is the world's largest forum that brings together the Tourism/Travel Industry, representatives of governments and many private sector businesses working within the Tourism/Travel Industry.

There is no doubt that all those who witnessed the trade fare would have been highly motivated to make the right contact and initiate partnerships to enhance their business and further improve the profile of their respective country Tourism/Travel Industries.

The WTM created such an opportunity at this year’s fare for each participant to develop achievable standards of operations and products and if the interest shown for The Gambian stand is anything to go by, the sky is the limit for The Gambia Tourism/Travel Industry.

According to the Gambia Tourism guide document "Go-Discover the smiling coast of Africa", Honourable Aja Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, Minister of Tourism and Culture, mentioned that "The Gambia has a high degree of ethnic diversity and Gambians are world renowned for their legendary hospitality." She further emphasised that "The Gambia's uniqueness is anchored on the country's religious tolerance, peace, stability and visionary leadership to transform the country into world best place for tourism and social advancement."

To further harness Tourism as an avenue for economic development for The Gambia, there is need for greater support to The Gambia Tourism Authority for it to exploit the many strategic innovations expounded during the fare which includes capacity building within the industry coupled with greater product development and exploration of Sports Tourism in The Gambia. 

It is well acknowledged by football pundits that South Africa organised the most successful World Cup Football tournament; people would for ever remember the 'Vuvuzela', a special and unique cultural symbol that was very much at the heart of that success. I wish The Gambia could introduce modern Sports Tourism technology that would bring value change development into the country and Africa.

Dr Hannah R. Messerli, of Africa Finance and Private Sector Development Unit at the World Bank pointed out that Tourism is not well understood in many countries and emphasised that a well-managed Tourism industry can contribute to job creation and sustainable economic development of countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Tourism is a driving economic growth force with lots of incentives, particularly in Africa, and research have revealed the continent has one of the world biggest and best tourism industries with enormous economic potential. "Transformation through tourism," using tourism to create jobs and encourage private sector development, is their vision at the World Bank. 

Dr Messerli was presenting findings by the World Bank team at a forum jointly organised by the Gambia's tourism industry, the Africa Travel Association whose president is The Gambia's Honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture, the indefatigable Mrs Jobe-Njie, and chaired by the dynamic Alieu Secka of the Gambia Hotel Association.

Dr Messerli explained that a strategy is being developed to guide future tourism assistance to sub-Saharan Africa to support poverty alleviation. This strategy, according to her, has four key pillars namely: institutional support, capacity development, product renewal and value chain development. The strategy would be delivered in close partnership with client countries and that it is hoped that the goals would be achieved with the use of expanded knowledge sharing and lending assistance to governments.

The excitement from this year's WTM fare can be undoubtedly attributed to the potential of this new approach by the World Bank. The Gambia should fully take advantage of this new paradigm by the World Bank to further consolidate successes of the Tourism/Travel Industry and explore new areas in order to maximise the great value of Tourism development in our beloved country and Africa in general.

Some of the constraints highlighted which affect the development of Tourism in Africa are poor quality services, unpredictable business environment, institutional weaknesses and unmanaged Tourism products as well as poor communication networks.

The Gambia is situated at a strategic place in Africa only six hours away from major European destinations and surrounded by Senegal, a great country known for its tourism and heritage development.

The book 'ROOTS', by Alex Haley, has in the first decade after independence firmly put The Gambia in the world tourism radar and although small in size, the gains are since needed to be further consolidated and built upon. The Kanilai International Cultural Festival initiated by His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhagie Dr Yahya Jammeh, President of The Gambia, has taken different positive dimension over the past few years.

The Gambia has very rich and diverse cultures that would continue to interest tourist and travellers. I would like to join The Gambia Tourism Authority in their call for people all over the world to come and discover our beautiful country - ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’.

Congratulations to the World Bank and Africa Travel Association (ATA) for their contribution in making The Gambia’s participation at the WTM a success. Special commendation must go to the team, Mr Noah Touray, permanent secretary Ministry of Tourism and Culture; Ms Binta Jobe, director-general of The Gambia Tourism Authority; Mr Salifu Mboge, chairman, Gambia Civil Aviation Authority; Mr Baboucar Cham, director of Air Transport and Commerce; Mr Alieu Secka of The Gambia Hotels Association; Mr Adama Bah, programme manager of The Travel Foundation, who also presented concept paper on Gambia's Tourism and Travel industry; all these people deserve our kudos for a job well done.

The Gambian team at the Gambia High Commission in London deserve the highest commendation for an excellent groundwork and continued  support to the team under the indefatigable leadership of Her Excellency Madam Ya Elizabeth Harding whose presence at the World Bank forum lend credible testimony to the importance The Gambia Government attaches to the Tourism sector. Her presence was truly inspirational to all.

All those who witnessed the WTM are encouraged to continue to work together for the betterment of mankind and not try to undermine each other but develop fair trade which shall rely on quick and efficient services.

The technology created to develop the Tourism/Travel Industry needs to be shared at low cost for better movement of people, goods and services in this global village.