By Awa B.Bah
Mr. Hamat N. K. Bah, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, said 62% of all the bookings in the world are based on ‘All-Inclusive Tourism’; that it has become necessary that the tourism sector cannot go against the trend that obtains in the world.
Mr. Bah was responding to a question from Hon. Ousman Sillah, National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul North, on the concerns expressed by small scale operators in the tourism sector regarding the introduction of the ‘all-inclusive’ tourism package. According to the small scale operators, the package does not favour them; that it does not have that trickle-down effect in terms of the tourists having access to their products. Mr. Bah said there are problems because people find it difficult to adjust to change.
“We have been staggering for 52 years with nothing more than 150, 000 arrivals in this country. As a Government we owe it to the people to revise that figure. If countries like Cape Verde can boast of 800, 000 arrivals and working towards 1 million guests, a great country like the Gambia with beautiful beaches and natural beauties, a good cultural heritage and other landmarks, should be able to sell this country and attract more guests.”
He said the sector and stakeholders operating within the sector, need to adopt new norms in order to achieve their target of 500, 000 tourists.
“We would not allow few Gambians to go against the interest of the majority,’’ Mr. Bah posited.
The tourism minister also responded to the issue of Gambians being denied access to the beach; that the security is too harsh and need to liberalise this; that there is a misunderstanding with a change in policy by the Ministry of Interior replacing the trained personnel, with new untrained ones; that they cannot train the others when the season is already on. Mr. Bah said they must be given time to trained others to be able to handle the security situation in the tourism area.
Mr. Bah said the image of this country matters to them and their tour in Europe revealed that there is no family tourism, including children, because the Gambia was designated as a place for sex tourism.
“We have to fight this tooth and nail. Some of these people are complaining that they are denied access and they have massage huts or parlours and they keep girls in those so called massages parlours,” he said.
Mr. Bah said these girls are used to sell themselves to tourists in those “so-called parlours” on the beach.
He promised that they are working on a package to get tourist taxi drivers’ good vehicles and to support and enable them stay in business.