#Article (Archive)

Ministry of Tourism Needs to Act Now

Apr 29, 2009, 10:01 AM

As the annual Tourist season comes to an end, the need should arise for review and evaluation with a view to assessing the benefits and drawbacks of the sector.

All in all the benefits of tourism to The Gambia have been fair as reflected in the sum total of domestic earnings from various taxes, primarily the sales and hotel taxes; from airport dues and fees; and incomes that accrue to private sector operators. These earnings impact significantly on the country's Gross Domestic Product which in very recent years stand at an average 16% of GDP. This of course represents contribution to the annual budget as well as to foreign exchange earnings and reserves, and it is this fact that makes our Tourism contribution significant, more than just the percentage level of contribution.

Foreign exchange as we are all aware, provide the means for the importation of basic commodities necessary at household level; as well as of fuel, materials and spare parts vital at the level of public sector operations and private sector enterprises. This 16% record can be augmented if Government manages to make the sector a more viable and efficient contributor to our narrow revenue base, through improved development planning, and putting in place measures to reduce if not eliminate the factors that militate against the growth of the sector, bumsterism being one of the most noticeable and rampant.

To achieve a better tourism it is important to carry out an evaluation of past efforts and results, and establishing appropriate policies, plans and strategies for maximizing the gains of Tourism. It will be necessary to establish a Tourism Planning Commission or similar body that is multi-disciplinary and widely representative of major stakeholders.

The commission will be charged with the responsibility of conducting comprehensive studies on the impact of tourism and evolving ways and strategies for enhancing sectoral contribution in the immediate and medium term, and should be given full support of Government and the relevant stakeholders.

Although there are potential benefits for Gambian Tourism such as contribution to the national budget and the assistance of individual private visitors to schools particularly classroom construction, libraries, materials and school supplies, among other positive contributions, there are also the negative indicators such as drug abuse, child pornography, prostitution, sex, and of course local bumsterism. The Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Authority should take stock now that the Tourism season is coming to an end with the aim of making next year's tourism more productive. Matters need to be balanced with a view to maximizing Revenue, and eliminating the negative impacts of tourism to the country. We must seize the time now, ahead of the next upcoming season to get things going in the right direction, rather than leave things to repeat the same pattern over and over again.

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

Anthony Eden