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GTBoard hopeful, despite Ebola outbreak

Aug 25, 2014, 10:22 AM | Article By: Adama K. Jallow

Despite the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, the Gambia Tourism Board (GTB) is looking forward to meeting the projected 15 per cent annual increase in tourist arrivals this year, according to GTB Director General Benjamin A. Roberts.

Before the start of any season, the GTB makes projections in terms of what to expect in the coming tourist season.

It would be recalled that 173, 000 tourists visited The Gambia during the 2013-14 season.

Mr Roberts spoke recently in an exclusive interview with The Point newspaper, when he was asked to react to concerns about this year’s tourist season when the Ebola virus outbreak is in some countries in West Africa.

“For now there has been an indicative decrease in bookings as narrated by some tour operators, compared to the same period last season.

However, despite the current indicative position from the tour operators, in terms of numbers of bookings, the head of the GTB said he is “hopeful that this would improve, as most bookings start in earnest in September”.

He pointed out that with the Ebola virus in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and Nigeria, the Gambia government through the Health ministry in Banjul, in collaboration with other stakeholders, has put in place measures to prevent the virus from entering the country.

Meanwhile, operators in the tourism sector have participated in stakeholders consultative forums, aimed at taking measures to pre-empt an Ebola outbreak in the country and any likely negative effect on the industry.

According to Mr. Roberts, they “have agreed on collective action points in terms of communication, to help get the message disseminated locally and globally that The Gambia is not affected by the virus”.

He added that he sends updates, as agreed with stakeholders, on a weekly basis to their overseas stakeholders to inform them on the situation of Ebola in the country.

Mr Roberts said they are working to allay fears tourists may have that, since the Ebola virus is in West Africa, it might reach The Gambia.

He pointed out that though The Gambia is not affected by the Ebola outbreak, not all tourists are conversant with the geography of West Africa.

International news media, such as CNN, in their coverage of the Ebola outbreak use the map of West Africa and pinpoint the nations affected by the outbreak.

This helps, but not all global media does that, and this could cause difficulties for a destination in West Africa, Mr. Roberts further noted.