#Opinion

Can Gambia Tourism survive after covid-19 pandemic? Part 1

May 6, 2020, 12:53 PM

The tourism industry in The Gambia has been hard hit by unfolding events from November to date with the Thomas Cook sage , The three years “ jotna “ and the  latest devastating COVID-19 pandemic which   has brought the entire tourism industry at a standstill.  The entire closure of hotels, small and medium size businesses at every level within the industry is having a catastrophic ripple effect, hitting employees and suppliers across the board. The resultant effect of all these events on revenue, employment both direct & indirect, and foreign exchange earnings among others and its impact on the industry is devastating to the country’s economy.

In addition, the industry faces unprecedented threats apart from the Covid-19 made up of false media offensives, climate catastrophes, bankruptcies of international tour operators and economic slowdown in our source markets which will continue to impact the sector.

The total number of employees in the industry is about 139,000 both direct and indirect. (WTC).This figure includes employees of SMEs in the sector and the informal operators. According to the above table the total contribution to government revenue annually is estimated at D1, 400,029,780. The above figures are those contributed by only members of the Hotel and Tourism associations. There are other operators who are not members of the two organisations mentioned above that have not been accounted for. In addition, information on Social Security contributions, tax on dividends, etc are not included in the matrix above even though cumulatively they constitute a significant amount. Notwithstanding, the overall contribution of the sector is quite significant.

The situation of the industry is very volatile, and the future continues to be uncertain due to the following reasons:

  • We do not know how long it will take to contain the outbreak of the corona virus to determine the reopening or commencement of the season.
  • The duration it would take International Tour Operators to prepare promotional materials and in effect promote the destination again.
  • The uncertainty of the destination in making a quick return is doubtful and unpredictable due to the above-named factors.
  • The pulling out of FTI the biggest tour operator in our market controlling between 45 to 50 % of our total market. The company operates six flights per week ferrying 875 passengers from all over Europe.
  • The company operates two top 5 star hotels namely Kairaba and Coral Beach Hotel which in total employers a total of approximately 500 persons.
  • The likely closure of Banjul breweries which employers a total of 150 staff and contributed in 2019 D 220M and a monthly Social Security contribution of D 165,000.

The tourist industry has still not recovered from the Thomas Cook sage as there is a huge outstanding debt amounting to D 350 M owed to Gambian hotels.

My question is can a seasonal tourism industry survive with such huge debts without tax incentives?

# This paper is an extract from a report commissioned by The Gambia Hotel Association and Gambia Tourism & Travels Association. Conducted by Sheikh Tejan Nyang & Kebba Njie .