Gambia needs to re-evaluate its business model to establish who its competitors are and the competitive edge they have on the smiling coast in order to position itself in the global tourism market.
The basis for competitiveness usually revolves around accessibility of a destination, value for money, infrastructure, environmental friendliness as well as working with communities for activities to take place.
Oumie Ceesay assistant Manager of Discovery Tours believes The Gambia is a small country that is endowed with potentials and does not need to develop new policies and strategies, but should rather work to operationalizing its current tourism policy.
Ceesay, who was speaking at the TAF conference held on 7th January 2020 at the Coral hotel said: “I always say we only need small gradual steps in order to have a progressive shift to more productive destination.”
In order to have this progressive shift, destination Gambia has to start with a complete reorganization of its tourism sector.
She adds: “We wouldn’t just need to focus on what action we need to take in order to transform the destination Gambia, but rather how do we implement reforms that would actually filter down an influential tourism sector. Because as a nation, I think there is a lot that we need to clean up in order to move forward.”
Tourism contribution to The Gambia’s GDP is significant. It is believed that the decision by the Barrow administration to declare the Gambia a visa free zone for travelers from EU, Commonwealth and Africa will help in increasing the number of arrivals. Gambia last year recorded two hundred thousand visitors, which is significant, but the former British colony could increase the number of arrivals visiting the country.
The recent collapse of Thomas Cook has compelled the authorities to waive landing fees for airlines and tour operators. This was also a good initiative, but there are lot more challenging logistics for airlines and tour operators arriving in the Gambia. Operators grappled with the payment of other taxes. There are some airlines or tour operators who go to other destinations to refuel before coming into The Gambia and that shows how significantly more expensive the Gambia is compared to other destinations in the region. This explains the reasons why some tour operators prefer sending more tourists to other destinations.
The Smiling Coast of West Africa needs to expend its market in order to attract tourists from the African continent.
“This will bring a lot of revenue into the country. These are tourist who spend in all the sectors of our economy and that is what needs to be encouraged,” she said.
“We need to be more consistent and prioritize our focus.”
The collapse of Thomas Cook came as a surprise to stakeholders in the tourism sector as it was not anticipated by anyone. However, the question many people were asking was, were the actions of the government enough in trying to attract new operators and in trying to also change the country’s tourism product.
The beaches and culture used to be the Gambia’s number one selling point, but that needs to change.
Stakeholders believe The Gambia can never remove itself from the mass tourism industry, but it can try to focus on high spending tourists that come to the Gambia. This, however, needs framing what the country is trying to showcase. The Gambia is endowed with a rich culture and sandy beaches, and it needs to make good use of them to maximize gains.