By Yankuba Jallow and Kebba Jeffang
The Ministry of Tourism and Culture in partnership with the Gambia Tourism Board, Gambia Hotel Association among other entities organised a press conference at Paradise Suites Hotel on February 7, 2017. The purpose of the conference was to tell the press the activities they are going to undertake during the course of the year and discuss how the political impasse had affected the Tourism Industry drastically and the plans the Minister has for the Industry.
Minister, Hamat N.K. Bah described the new administration of the country as transparent and open. He went on to say the political impasse has affected the Tourism sector resulting to a drastic decline in occupancy.
He said the people of the country love peace most and will always be peace loving due to the nature of the smiling coast of Africa.“The Gambia is safer than any destination in the whole world because if you come here, you will enjoy peace,” Mr Bah asserted. He said “we have to restructure our plans, reshape our country’s image and work towards the betterment of the country.” He thanked the International Community for their relentless support during the political Impasse especially the British Embassy, European Union, ECOWAS among many International Institutions. He thanked Gambians for the mature way they handled the political impasse.
“I am committed to work with relevant stakeholders and investors to promote the Tourist Industry of the country and move it to a higher level ever” Bah Promised.
Mr. Sheikh Tijan , the chairman of Asset, on his part underscored the importance for investors to invest in the River Gambia as it can help boost the country’s economy and boost the contribution of the Tourism Sector to the GDP. “The River should be utilized to generate income and strategies should be put in place by the Government to support that and give incentives to stakeholders to promote the usage of the River” he emphasised. He also urged the new administration to improve the storage facilities as that can be done through bilateral cooperation.
Mrs. Lian Sallah, chairperson of Gambia Travel and Tourism Association highlighted the strategies put in place to improve on Gambia’s tour operation for major international Tour Operators such as Thomas cook and many others to land in the country and a strategy to link the country with some African countries like Nigeria.
Mr. Malleh Sallah, Proprietor of Djeliba Hotel on his part said Tourism provides 25 % of the Gross Domestic Product of the country and he highlighted the importance of Tourism citing it as a job creator, bringing foreign exchange and national and international investors. “After 14 January, 2017, the percentage of Tourist occupancy retarded from 90% to 0%” he asserted.
Abdoulie Hydara, Director Gambia Tourism Board said it is not only the past political impasse that affected the Tourism sector but also the political campaign because tourists move to peaceful places. He expressed the need for the Government to invest in the Tourism Sector saying if Tourism is developed and maintained, the country’s economy will be in its best shape.
Bakary Jammeh, Director GTB Board of Directors said there should be a strategy to facilitate all year round tourist season in the country and he also promised all stakeholders and hotels that the Gambia Tourism Board will provide discount for their respective licences. He also urged the Minister to increase the star rating of all Hotels by giving one rate higher than the previous one.
Mr. Baba Ceesay the chairman of National Council for Arts and Culture expressed the need to have a cultural calendar that will render tourists to come to witness several events of culture and with that the Tourism Sector will be boosted. The Director General, National Center for Arts and Culture expressed similar sentiments and urged the new Minister to regulate the copyright laws.