These sectors are confronted with numerous challenges, which is threatening not only the existence of individual businesses, but also the hospitality sectors and the nation at large.
Fatou Mass Jobe Njie, Chairperson of the Gambia Hotel Association (GHA), who was speaking in a recent interview, described the pandemic as ‘Catastrophic.’
“This sector is uniquely exposed due to the worldwide panic as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, whose duration and scope is still unknown. At the moment these sectors are confronted with this challenge that is threatening not only the existence of our individual businesses, but the lives of our brothers and sisters who work and depend on the tourism industry and the nation as a whole,” she explained.
She observed that the vast closure of hotels, small and medium size businesses at every level within Tourism area is having catastrophic ripple effects, hitting huge number of employees and suppliers. The ripple effect of Covid-19, she went on, is right now having a massive impact as “it has wiped out an entire economic sector.”
“It is heart-breaking to see that the livelihoods of thousands of people who have dedicated their lives to the hotel, travel and allied sectors are being decimated; from waiters to taxi drivers, room attendants to cleaners, chefs to receptionist. hotels, tour operators, restaurants, suppliers and over 100,000 employees, are just a few of the hardest hit that suffer the most immediate repercussions, as the outbreak started during the winter months, the busiest travel season,” she noted.
At present, she said, most hotels are saddled with unsettled invoices from Tour Operators amounting to over D350 million dating back to December 2019. Moreover, in a recently concluded Rapid Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19 on Tourism and Related Sectors by GBOS, it was reported that during the months of April to June, an overall amount of GMD6.7 billion was reported by all establishments as the forecast loss during the period under review.”
“The hotels have reported a combined loss of GMD6.4 billion during the period, which relates to about 95 per cent of the total loss. Camps have a combined forecast loss of GMD15 million dalasis, Lodges and Eco Lodges reported a forecast loss of GMD7.7 million and GMD5.7 million respectively.”
She observed that the tourism industry over the past decade has intermittently been confronted with many external shocks such as the 2008 credit crunch, the outbreak of Ebola, the 2016 political impasse, the “Three Years Jotna”, the Thomas Cook bankruptcy saga and now the Covid-19.
“All these catastrophes will continue to impact tourism in The Gambia for many years to come,” she stressed.
Taken into consideration the current Covid-19 hard hitting realities that have both economic and financial implications on the hotel, travel and allied sectors in The Gambia, the members of Gambia Hotel Association (GHA) and Tourism and Travel Association of the Gambia (TTAG), Chaired by Mrs. Liane Sallah, have called on the Gambia government to introduce measures that would provide effective support to the industry.
Given the high level exposure of the associations, she disclosed that they - GHA and TTAG have commissioned a report on the impact of COVID-19 on the Tourism, Hospitality and Allied Sectors in March 2020, in which “we proposed a five-point plan for government to take and combat the devastating effect of Covid-19; this includes immediate intervention from government, financing, taxes, employee support, licences and municipality rates.”