By Aja Dahaba
“Tourism has become the fastest growing sector of the Gambia’s economy, contributing 12% of the country’s GDP. The sector provides employment for over 100,000 Gambians. Because of the above many investors have started investing in the tourism sector” Abdoulie Hydara Director General of the Gambia Tourism Board. He was speaking at a press briefing at the Gambia Tourism Hospitality Institute recently.
“Over 35 both solicit and unsolicited applications for the construction of four- and five-star hotels received, 5 credible investors have already completed the appraisal process and have shown commitments by paying the required development levy”.
DG, Hydara lamented that during the previous government there was a decline in tourism and that many countries stop visiting the Gambia. This is not the case now, he commended the new government through the ministry of finance for taking a giant stride by supporting the community-based tourism development to create ecotourism infrastructure in all the five regions in the country.
In the renewed markets TUI Belgium charted flight started flying to Gambia after been away for more than 16 years, the destination has registered direct flight from Poland to Banjul (chartered) with rainbow tours as a new source market from 2013, FTI Touristik have resume its operations to the Gambia after been away or more than 20 years with plans to fly year-round beginning April in 4 major cities in Germany (Munich, Frankfurt, Leipzig and Dusseldorf).
There is a daily flight to Nigeria and Ghana with ASKY while Air Peace will fly 4 times a week in the sub regional market and Brussels airlines will be flying daily to the Gambia and three of which are direct to Banjul from January to March, 2019.
“2018 flight frequencies are 57 per week compared to 50 per week in 2017 which was drastically reduced to less than 35 during the political impasse”.
The development of new tourism product according to DG Hydara will include culture and heritage tourism, wellness tourism and sport tourism. Other product diversification efforts include developing products around the River Gambia, development and improvement of niche products such as bird watching, fishing and culinary tourism as well as the development of community-base tourism and ecotourism enterprises in all the five regions of the country.
He said destination managers are appointed in their main source markets; UK, Spain, Scandinavia, Saudi Arabia and are looking into the appointment for Nigeria, Russia and China.
Regarding hotel quality and assurance, he said new hotel classification and standards document have been validated and are now being implemented. DG Hydara said the upcoming tourism facilities have been assessed and some renovation works are being carried out in most of them.
By Aja Dahaba