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The Value of Tourism

Aug 18, 2008, 7:15 AM

The Gambia Tourism Authority (GTA) has just released the June 2008 tourist arrival figures. Altogether, 3,480 tourists visited The Gambia in June this year. Of the lot, the greatest number of arrivals came from Britain, 884. This is followed by Gambians, 817; Dutch, 449; Spaniards 358; Belgian 117; German 116; and Swedish, 108.

These figures are quite impressive. They show that the tourism industry has the potential to attract even more holidaymakers to The Gambia. The more tourists who visit The Gambia, the more the country's foreign exchange swells. The result is a vibrant economy.

Tourism, when well managed, has the capacity to invigorate our economy. But the sort of vibrant economy that we are concerned with cannot be achieved by over dependence on seasonal tourism. For too long, we have been doing tourism that is on and off. Now the tourists flock in, now they disappear.

The consequence of this kind of tourism is obvious enough. The hotels operate for only half a year and then close up shop for the rest of the year. They then wait for another six months before re-opening for business. No business can prosper this way. Instead of ploughing back their profit into the business to make it thrive, hotel owners tend to spend it on pressing existential needs. That way, business becomes motion without movement.

Closely allied with this seasonal tourism is unemployment. People are in business to make a profit and then improve their economic status. But if business is off, they naturally have to lay off their workers. For some of these workers, they have to fall back on their savings. For others, they have to live off the generosity of friends and relatives all over again. The vicious cycle of poverty remains intact.

Our tourism should be organised in such a way that it can provide all-year employment for people desirous of a career in the industry. This requires a lot of creative thinking and imagination. The GTA should gather the best brains in the industry and get them to draw up programmes and activities that will make our tourism alive throughout the year.

Surveys should be commissioned to find ways of making our tourism sustainable all-year round. Fresh tourist sites should be added to the existing. That way, we can enrich the tourist experience in The Gambia.

The value of tourism is palpable enough for us to give it our best shot. Going by the principle of comparative degree, good things give way to better ones. So we expect that the GTA would work hard enough to improve on the statistics for the month of June. This is as much a challenge as a national duty.


"No personal consideration should stand in the way of performing a public duty."

Ulysses S. Grant