Tourism as a global success story is evolving in leap and bounds due to changes in lifestyle and the impact of robust technological developments. Tourists are becoming even more discerning and increasingly there is growing preference for customized and tailor made products to suit the evolving needs of tourists. Consequently in recent times there has been increasing demand for quality, good value holidays and for new holiday ideas. In recent years destinations have tapped in to a whole range of opportunities in their search for innovation and for product differentiation.
Invariably,, It has been pointed out elsewhere that the key to successful management of tourism service providers will lie in the capacity of their businesses to continuously and systematically adapt to the constant changes affecting the sector. In such as environment the competitive advantage of enterprises will depend on their capacity for innovation and creation of added value in their products and services
Although the concentration and consolidation of the accommodation sector is not always viewed in a positive light, the quality, diversity and innovative nature of the accommodation product, and corresponding quality of staff training and development have done much to raise the profile of the broader industry. Invariably various destinations are in the forefront of rethinking accommodation and resort design as a result of changing consumer taste and the needs of the discerning traveler. This has resulted to the emergence of a new stock of trendy hospitality outfits in the tourism development area, including the branded exquisite villas at the Sand Beach Holiday Resort in Kotu. These trendy properties feature monkey, crocodile, dolphin, and kingfisher villas all designed to taste and to serve the needs of the discerning guests..It is not uncommon to come across such comments in the guest questionnaire “perfect place to be. We like it, near by the beach and quite.”
However, Kunta Kinteh Complex – a haven for self catering accommodation right on the serene Kotu Point beach has been a trend setter in the Gambian context.. Speaking to Tourist Corner, Solomon Tamba – the proprietor of the complex explains that “tourism is all about comfort and understanding what the guests want and you go for that”. According to him this was what motivated him to set up one of the finest and trendiest beach bars years ago to cater to the needs of those tourists, who crave novel experiences and want to experience everything local.
Nestled on the serene and sandy Kotu Beach, the Kunta Kinteh Beach Bar provided a haven for tourists who were looking for a more loaded experience to relax, wind down and enjoy local culinary delights and at the same time enjoy local ambience. According to Solomon as he is affectionately called “Kunta Kinteh Beach Bar features 92 sun beds, endowed with friendly and professional staff who are well motivated to meet all the requests of the various guests and offers a wide variety of local delicacies and other services including African Djembe Drumming, and interactive cultural night on the beach. The feedback from his vast clientele was so positive and inspiring over the years that he made a deliberate move in 2010 to apply for land adjacent to the Beach Bar to set up and expand in to self catering accommodation business.
“This process was not easy” Solomon revealed to the Tourist corner, because he ‘faced lot of hurdles and frustrations’, but eventually got the ultimate approval from the defunct GTA to enable him make the necessary expansion and make a successful foray in to self catering/ lodging to complement the beach bar operation. “What motivated me most was the desire to meet the needs of my customers, who have always challenged me to provide self catering accommodation on the fringes of the beach bar”, Mr. Tamba explained. “After so many years operating on the beach and interacting with my vast clientele both in Europe and locally, I realized that self catering is trending and I went for it and thank God today I can’t complain”, Solomon a usually very confident and inspiring person, explained.
Solomon further disclosed that today the Kunta Kinteh Complex has evolved in to a fully fledged hospitality out fit on the beach featuring 22(twenty two) self catering trendy apartments all designed to suit the taste of his diverse clientele and the complex also provides a range of services including hair salon, tailoring shop, massage and pedicure and manicure services, African Craft and batik, tailor made excursions, daily fresh fish menu, BB Q every Sunday, ballet dance, cultural night thus “creating a perfect African ambience on the beach”.
Over the years, Solomon has contributed in the development of tourism, as these relates to small scale enterprise development within the tourism sector. ” I am happy to be able to contribute to employment generation for the youth in my own small and humble way” , says Solomon and added that the “ Kunta Kinteh Complex employs over 40 young service oriented staff in various capacities on all year round basis”.
“I think the emphasis should be more towards promoting The Gambia as an interesting and exciting destination. I also want to join those calling for a diversification of the Gambia Tourism Product that will appeal to a broad spectrum of customers and holiday makers” Solomon concluded, This takes a cue from the fact that there is a noticeable shift in focus of global tourism trends, from mass tourism to tourism of the individual, preference for quality products by the new tourists, emphasis on quality service and exciting experiences to fit neatly with the needs of the modern/discerning tourist, which is oriented towards education, experience and entertainment
The Kunta Kinteh Complex experience lends credence to the conclusion proffered by one leading light in tourism “that tourism is the only hard currency earning product that can be designed, produced packaged and operated entirely by developing countries themselves”..It has therefore been pointed in another authoritative report that “tourism is an industry that has product characteristics that make it particularly attractive as an engine of development. It is dominated by small and, medium sized enterprises (SMEs) which require little by way of startup capital can be flexible and fast in responding, to market demand and earn significant amount of foreign exchange. However, it further underscores “that tourists have to come to the destination to experience the product, means that they bring with them environmental and socio- cultural impacts. Some of the impacts are positive and some are negative and it requires sound management and planning to optimize the benefits”.
By Lamin Saho- Tourism and Marketing Consultant