Sep 16, 2011, 1:39 PM
Every year, thousands of international visitors come to The Gambia, drawn by its beaches, birds, sunshine, and the country's biggest asset: the Gambian people, whose hospitality and friendliness have made it "The Smiling Coast".
Tourism has become the fastest-growing sector of the economy, contributing 12% of the country's GDP and providing employment for over 100,000 Gambians. More and more visitors are returning year after year.
As we are closely approaching the beginning of another tourism season, it is important for all the stakeholders in the tourism sector to put all the necessary measures in place for the country to have a fruitful season.
For the tourism sub-sector to become more vibrant, there should be more innovation and investment in the sector. This will, no doubt, make this crucial sector of our economy become more productive, thus attracting more tourists to visit the country.
It is true to say that, over the years, the country’s tourism industry has been experiencing some difficulties in its operations, as a result of so many factors. Despite the fact that the country has very good hotels and beaches, as well as good echo-tourism sites to attract international visitors, marketing is still a major problem.
We are, therefore, challenging the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the Gambia Tourism Authority (GTA) to intensify their efforts in marketing the country, since the destination is attractive, safe and worth visiting.
With the support of the tour operators, both public and private, coupled with that of the ministry and GTA, this year's tourist season is expected to significantly improve, thus benefiting all and sundry.
The Gambia has a lot to offer, so it is high time other tour operators outside the country supported the Smiling Coast of Africa.
The good thing about the tourism industry is that when the season starts it also eases unemployment, because that is the time many young people are able to get new jobs in the industry.
While some are able to secure jobs in the hotels and restaurants, others serve as tour guides and bird watchers, waiters, and room boys just to name a few.
There are so many people whose livelihoods entirely depend on this sector, and it also brings lots of foreign exchange to the country, which is good for the economy.
One thing that also needs to be addressed, as we enter the new season, is the issue of bumsters.
At this juncture, we would like to commend the GTA for the new strategies it is rolling out to combat the incidence of crime within the TDA caused by bumsters.
We wish you a good tourist season in advance!
"The travel and tourism industry, it's just a huge part of our economy."