Posted - 14 Jul 2017 : 12:25:40
The President of The Republic of The Gambia,
State House, FAJARA.
5th. July 2017
THE BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES OF TOURISM TO THE GAMBIA
I wish to take this opportunity once more to send my warmest congratulations to you and your family on your appointment to the highest office of our beloved country, The Gambia. We pray to Allah to continue to guide and protect you and see your dreams for the country come through with peace, progress and prosperity.
I did intimate to you during our last meeting and my address to you and your delegation at the AbubacakSidiq Mosque on 23rd June 2017, the expectation of the country and its people base on the three Wolof words: Dolleh, Daraja ak Derem.
You’re Excellency, my livelihood and that of many Gambians depend on the tourism industry which is referred to as the backbone of the country. The industry contributes over 20% of our GDP, it offers gainful employment both directly and indirectly, it provides much needed foreign exchange earnings and also contributes towards our yearly balance of payment.
Your Excellency, The Gambia has been a leading tourist destination in the sub-region with good policies and practices but over the years we lacked behind in many ways due to lack of commitment and political will.
Sir, it is this political will and commitment that we now seek from your government in which, we entrust our hopes to salvage our dear industry that provides us our livelihood and our survival for that matter.
In this vain, I kindly request that Tourism be accorded a strategic sector in the development agenda of your government.
It is regrettable that in two of your government’s statements references were made on Agriculture, Health, Energy and lately Education has been added as priority areas, thus omitting Tourism which is key in our nation’s development.
I have been assured by the Hon. Minister of Tourism and Culture that it was an oversight that Tourism was omitted and it will be rectified as a matter of priority. Since this rectification has not been forthcoming, I felt obliged to seek your urgent intervention on the issue.
Sir, I have managed to compile key benefits and challenges of the sector for you and your Cabinet to know how much Tourism and Culture contributes towards our economy and the key challenges that the sector faces for your consideration in addressing the key areas of priority of your government.
Your Excellency, Be rest assured of my continued support at all times for the development of the tourism industry of “The Smiling Coast “.
Sheikh Tejan Nyang,
Head of School ITTOG
Institute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia
Off Qcell Road, Kanifing, KMC. P.O.BOX 4429, Bakau, The Gambia
Tel: 8905151 / 7701330
CC: Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism & Culture,
Director General Gambia Tourism Board.
A clear concience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
Posted - 14 Jul 2017 : 12:35:26
| THE BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES
OF TOURISM TO THE GAMBIA
• In 2016 the total contribution of Travel & Tourism to employment, including jobs, indirectly supported by the industry was 18% of total employment (39,000 jobs). This is expected to rise by 17 % in 2017 to 14,500 jobs and rise by 3.9 pa to 208,000 jobs in 2027 ( 9.4% of total).
• Travel & Tourism contribution to employment generated 54,500 jobs directly in 2016 (7.4 % of total employment) and this is forecast to grow by 0.8% in 2017 to 55,000 (7.2 % of total employment). This includes employment by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transport services (excluding commuter services). It also includes, for example, the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists.
• The direct contribution of travel & Tourism to GDP in 2016 to the Gambian economy was (USD 80.0 MN) 9.0% of total GDP in 2016 and its forecast to rise by 0.6 % in 2017 , and to rise by 5 % pa from 2017 -2027 to ( USD 130.7 MN ) 8.6% of total GDP in 2027.
• Visitor export generated (USD 85.2 MN) 46.5 % of total exports in 2016.This is forecast to fall by 12 in 2017, and grow by 4.6 % pa, from 2017-2020 to (USD 132.7 MN) in 2027 43.3 % of total
• Travel & Tourism investment in 2016 was (USD 26.2MN) 19 % of total investment .It should rise by 49 % in 2017, and rise by 8.9 % pa over the next ten years to ( USD 64.2 MN ) in 2027,16.9 % in total.
There is no doubt that there are opportunities created by tourism development in The Gambia. However, over the years we have not been able to maximise such an opportunity because of many challenges as highlighted below:
• Undertake more joint marketing operation with tour operators in major and emerging source markets
• Roll out targeted marketing packages and advertise in specialist publications and attend more niche consumer fairs such as Rutland Birding Fair.
• Increase the scope of marketing to leverage on e-promotion, e-marketing, and invest in a top notch web site, fully branded and interactive.
• Roll out marketing collateral including marketing tool kit with translated versions for key source markets
• Budgetary support. - Gambia tourism stakeholders are of the view that Government budgetary support to tourism is not commensurate to the significance and vital role of tourism to the national economy. Accordingly would like to avail ourselves the opportunity to suggest for an increment in budgetary allocation to the sector to be able to undertake robust destination marketing and the much needed product development given the competitive nature of tourism as a global enterprise.
• Support to partners- It is also felt that for Destination Gambia to be competitive, there is the urgent need to create pro- tourism incentives in favour of international tour operators such as joint marketing, easing of operational cost, and creation of special schemes to incentivise their programmes. It is quite evident that there is tour operator fatigue as evidenced by the cessation of operations and or down scaling of operations by leading tour operators. We need to come up with more incentives to make them not only stay but come in a big way.
• Revitalise public – private sector marketing platform to serve as conduit to generate and implement well thought out marketing strategies for destination Gambia including crafting of rolling marketing plans on a short, medium and long term basis.
1.1 SUPPORT TO PARTNERS:
Charges levied on tour operator Staff for expatriate quota need revising considering the fact that they are seasonal workers. Charges of D 40,000 per person are considered excessive and needs to be revised considering the key role these personals play. The absence of highly qualified Gambians who speak and understands the cultures of our tourist has made the process of Gambianising these positions difficult for now.
1.2 REMEDIAL MESEASURES:
The industry would like to see a proper and transparent utilisation of funds to help the destination. We call on the government to do an independent assessment of how much is collected by the GTBOARD as well as the GCAA and how much is ploughed back in priority areas of the tourism sector including airport development.
These funds need to be judiciously utilised on tourism development and other critical areas of destination management.
2. PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
River Cruise and Ferry services - There is a dire need to rejuvenate the Gambia Tourism Product, and what better way than developing the majestic River Gambia for cruising, fishing and birding. But first Government has to take the lead and provide incentives to attract private sector investment. The safety, cleanliness and efficiency of the Ferry services in The Gambia must also be improved upon if we want to encourage up country tourism.
• Festivals and Events have the potential to spice up the product, given the huge repeater rate and the need for customer retention by coming up with more interesting and exciting products through infusion of cultural manifestations such as festivals and related activities to make the destination not only interesting but exciting.
• Forward & Backward Linkages – Agricultural Producers, Adding Value to fruits & vegetables, Crafts development. Support to (ASSET) to undertake key role for SMEs. This is very critical given the need to spread the benefits of tourism and to increase the impact of tourism as a tool for poverty alleviation
• Reliable internet Service is also an indispensable reality in this day and age and vital to make our guests feel at home and connect with the world while on vacation in the Smiling Coast.
The constant lack of connectivity in our hotels is a major threat to achieving customer satisfaction. We should strive to make the internet as efficient and affordable as possible because in most instances this is a free service that hotels provide to guests.
• Quality Products- beds, service equipment-busses, transport, taxis and Human Resources. The need to mainstream quality in tourism cannot be overemphasised, given the shift in focus of modern day tourism oriented towards quality and value for money coupled with emphasis on new holiday ideas to conform to changing lifestyle and impact of robust technological trend and all the necessary concomitant effects on hospitality industry. Remedial measures will include training and refresher courses across the board on quality service delivery, more budgetary outlay to the GTHI – to be able to evolve in to centre of excellence to churn and train high calibre professionals for the hospitality industry including training of GTBoard quality Control personnel.
• Revitalise the public – private sector product development committee with a robust mandate to revisit the Gambia Tourism product portfolio and roll out project proposals for possible donor funding to revitalise star products, while at the same time revamping products deemed necessary for change.
2.1 FESTIVALS and EVENTS
Better organisation and timely promotion needed to attract the numbers required.
• Review and catalogue all main festivals in The Gambia and support them. Examine the concept of the Roots Festival and transform it into a more commercial oriented venture led by the private sector.
• Support the Mboka and Camp Africa as key options in building the student market.
• Add some village festival and create other cultural festival that we could link to our history and culture.
2.2 FORWARD BACKWARD LINKAGES:
Create linkages with the agricultural sector
Reduction of imported food stuff and other commodities is a main concern. There is the need to address the drainage of our much needed foreign exchange by creating the necessary linkages with the agricultural sector. This is done by growing what our customers consume with a view of quality, availability when needed and the right price.
Tourism is the only export sector where the consumer travels to the exporting country which provides opportunities for the poor to become exporters by selling local foods, drinks and other goods and services to foreign tourists. However, there is still growing concern that much of the food tourists eat and drink is imported in The Gambia. We recommend your government to engage stakeholders especially those in Agro-business to make the linkage with the tourism industry possible. Such a programme will also create employment opportunities for local farmers and the food sector to improve its performance with regards to food security.
2.3 QUALITY PRODUCTS- BEDS AND OTHER RELATED SERVICES:
The general outcry from our partners over the years has been the dare need for quality beds, equipment and human resource to satisfy the demand of our customers. The lack of capital to invest in the improvement or upgrading of standards of hotel beds cannot be met without the intervention and support by government in obtaining soft loans. This form of support needs to filter down to vehicles and coaches. Tourist taxis and boat services ferrying our customers to juffureh among others. This is top priority if we are to move forward in catching up with the developments we see happening in Cape Verde.
Addressing the myriad of anomalies that exist in the TDA by way of stagnant projects, inappropriate buildings, unsatisfactory service delivery standards in some tourism establishments, etc.
The state of the jetty both at Juffureh and Kunta Kinteh Island needs serious attention considering the safety of tourist. The harassment of tourist has not cease despite all the efforts made in putting both security and a destination Manager on the ground.
There is also the need to upgrade the museum at the WASSU STONE CIRCLES.
Development of Tourism infrastructure such as good road linking Jufureh to the North Bank main road and secondary roads within Jufureh especially the road leading to the various sites and street lighting within Jufureh is needed.
2.5 UP-COUNTRY TOURISM
Development of diverse tourism attractions countrywide, thus boosting rural tourism with increased direct and indirect employment and thus make a significant contribution to halting the rural-urban drift.
We need to look at wildlife management and invest in similar wildlife reserves such as the Fathala Wildlife Reserve in Senegal, a great number of tourist visit there from the Gambia, if Gambia has its own properly managed reserve, this will create employment up river and enhance our tourism product range and add to socio-economic development.
2.6 REINFORCING BIJILO FOREST PARK / MONKEY PARK
This Park was gazetted in 1952 and it is the only park that is situated on the coastline with easy access for tourist to visit on a walking tour around The Senegambia. It is a major tourist attraction and provides earnings for many young Gambian guides. The park is frequented by bird watchers and other nature lovers. According to accessgambia.com the park receives 23,000 visitors a year.
However, recently there are moves to intrude into the park with plans to construct the Chinese funded Conference Centre. There is a huge outcry against this by tourists and the industry. It is hoped that the planed conference centre will be built at another site.
The high cost of energy has been a perennial concern for the sector coupled with its unavailability when it’s needed most.
We accordingly advocate and seek Governments support to reduce electricity rates during summer months (May- September) to help tourism operators stay open or reduce duty on diesel fuel for generators or create a project with the help of donor agencies in funding for use of alternative energy for hotels. In the absence of grants, soft long term loan should be provided. It’s worth mentioning that the tourism sector contributes almost between 50 to 60 % of NAWEC revenue. (A study conducted by PURA).
Use of alternative energy – wind mill & solar; the future of energy is the use of sustainable green energy, the Gambia has an abundance of sun and wind we need to make use of this God given resource.
The Gambia is marketed as a peaceful and friendly country. However, the many check points and constant begging by police officers is a major concern. Drivers be it tourist taxi drivers or drivers on tourist excursions are constantly stopped and begged for “ATAYA” at the numerous check points sometimes in the presence of tourists. We know check points are necessary for security reasons but they are many and sometimes unnecessary because of the short distances between them.
We are cognizant of the vital role of security in tourism development and roles of the Tourism Security Unit (TSU) are commended.
4.1 EMERGING WORLD WIDE TERRORIST TREATS:
The country must target to be a crime free, safe and secure destination. Therefore effective policing and crime management policies should be adopted especially in the tourism areas
• Proper education should be given to the, airport security, police force and TSU officers on how to protect the nation from this threat. We cannot think that Gambia will never be a target knowing fully well what is happening in our sub region.
• At Banjul International Airport strict control is needed to allow only valid card holders at the main baggage area and all other restricted areas.
• Security on terrorism treats need to be added to the training of airport security staff.
• Strict controls need to be put in place to stop all the baggage tampering and stealing.
• To be seen as the 1st point of entry and last point of exit. Given that the Airport is the first port of call for all travellers, and first impressions last forever, we urge Government to look in to these issues urgently with a view to redressing them for the development of tourism.
4.2 TOURISM SECURITY UNIT (TSU).
The role of the TSU team needs to be clearly defined to suit the services of the industry. The need to have a professional team to take care of the affairs and security of the TDA and tourist services is well overdue. A training programme similar to that offered by ITTOG some two years back offered to all security personnel’s needs to be undertaken by all posted to the TDA . The harassment of employee of stakeholders is of great concern and needs to be address with immediate effect to ensure that they have free access to their work places without hassle.
4.3 THE BUMSTER ISSUE
This issue still continues to flourish despite the presence of the TSU team. Drug paddling, prostitution among other illegal activities that is openly visible in the TDA.
We suggest that some money received from levies collected for tourism development be utilised to come up with sustainable approaches to this issue, which should also seek to deal with the wider issue of youth unemployment with a view to tackling this menace holistically. Government loses a lot of revenue due to not paid taxes and licences on all illegally sold excursions by bumsters. Also some Taxi drivers have become bumsters by selling illegal excursions. Government loses lot of income from these illegal businesses.
The Senegambia taxi car park which was allocated well in the 1980!s need to be properly utilized for the purpose it was allocated to ensure that the area is given a face lift and the environment conforms to the standards that we want to see in that area.
5 AIRPORT & RELATED MATTERS
• Our destination has limited scheduled flights both regional and international and there is need for government’s intervention in encouraging new airlines with the necessary incentives to ply our destination. There is greater need to encourage regional tourism to fill the gap of the summer month .The Nigerian market in particular need to be given the deserved attention it needs.
• There is a need for low cost airlines to reduce the dependency on tour operator chartered flights.
• We also call on the government to look at reducing landing & handling fees, aviation fuel cost to encourage more airlines to fly to the Gambia. Most airlines find it too expensive to buy fuel in the Gambia and in most cases they buy fuel in Gran Canarias, Dakar, Cape Verde and Portugal. This means loss of revenue to our destination.
5.1 AIRPORT SECURITY STANDARDS:
• Gambia needs to be in line with CAT 1 ICAO security standards and to always have a United States FAA security Clearance. Security is an important aspect of every airport and we need to upgrade as per current threats.
5.2 TOURISM/AIRPORT/DEVELOPMENT LEVY
Over the years an airport tax was introduced on all tourists coming to the Gambia. It started with a £5 sterling tax and gradually increased to 20 Euros and subsequently increased to 40 Euros built into the cost of the air ticket. This is about 1,000,000.00 Million Euros if we take a conservative figure of 100,000 tourists visiting this country. The private sector is calling for more transparency on how this is spent.
5.3 TECHNICAL AIRPORT SUPPORT
The absence of qualified technicians that can provide service to planes when there is a breakdown is a disincentive. Mostly airlines call for support or assistance from the Canary Islands when a breakdown occurs. The cost for such technical delays cannot be estimated and there is need to equip the airport with a technical backup of qualified Gambian technician. A clear example is the occurance of “Bird Strikes “.
• Technical Airline support in all the aspects of aviation is critical if we are to position our airport as a true hub within the sub region.
• Airport security outfit to be more vigilant and reoriented to be more customers friendly and vigilant, given the emerging security threats.
• Revitalise the air access committee at the level of the MOTC and given added impetus with strong interpectoral partnership given the cross cutting nature of air access challenges.
5.4 UNPROFESSIONAL BEHAVIOUR OF AIRPORT PERSONNEL
In all countries, airports are well secured from people who have no legitimate business to be at the terminal and environment of the airport. However, at the Banjul International Airport passengers are harassed by youths begging and offering all sorts of services. This is not a good impression to visitors to this country.
There is also the issue of some of the airport security not being professional in their approaches-sometimes even asking for tips from passengers. We are of the opinion that the rules of engagement of the unit should be reviewed and to provide them with some orientation so that they understand their important role better.
PLOUGHING BACK REVENUE:
High taxes being paid by tourism establishments without it being necessarily matched by reciprocal service provision such as waste collection, good secondary roads, street lighting, Beach erosion, etc. are also a major area of concern and it is our expectation that Government will look in to this matter with the urgency it deserves.
6.1 COUNCIL RATES :
The Tourism stakeholders are of the view that the area council rates levied on hospitality outfits are exorbitant and kindly request Government to work with the Councils and look into reducing Council rates back to 0.0001% (KMC/ Brikama/Banjul etc.) - and the councils to actively participate in cleaning and waste collection around the Tourism Development Area.
6.2 ILLEGAL OPERATORS
The sector needs to impose high charges as taxes for illegal operations of facilities. It is only these measures that would hinder the illegal operations of clandestine operators in the sector.
7. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:
7.1 BEACH EROSION:
Beach erosion has been a major challenge for most of our hotels and other facilities in the Senegambia, Kotu and Cape point areas. There is an urgent need to address the situation before most of our quality beds would be washed away. The project which started in addressing the issue has slowed down lately due to technical matter which I hope would be addressed before the beginning of the rains. Considering the high level of investment required, the private sector feels that repairing the damage done could only be addressed by government through the support of international agencies.
It is worth taken note that all future allocation of land should be mindful of beach erosion issues to avoid problems in the long run.
7.2 WASTE DISPOSAL:
The disposal of waste Is one of the major challenges for the TDA and the entire country. There are certain areas in the TDA that are used as dumping sides which affects our product and adverse to our health and safety standards. Some of our stakeholder started adopting good waste management practices by sorting out some of the waste for use as compose among other useful purposes.
Streets and the beach areas are covered with unsightly filthy plastic bottles and other non-biodegradable waste products which are causing infestation of insects and spoiling our beautiful beaches. We cannot expect people to come to our country and sit amongst a garbage hip.
7.3 NOISE POLLUTION:
This issue has been a main concern for visitors living in areas that have bars and restaurants. We are of the view that since we have the necessary legislation in place, all that is needed is to monitor on regular basis and act accordingly whenever the laws are not followed.
7.4 PROPER TREATMENT OF SEWAGE:
Kotu Ponds: The current disposal of household sewage at the Kotu Sedimentation Ponds collected from within the GBA needs urgent attention. The large volumes of sewage being disposed have now exceeded the treatment capacity of the facility. As a result, there is an acute health risk to both tourists and local Gambians alike, caused by the potentially untreated sewage reaching the nearby beaches. It could cause irreparable damage to our tourists if a tourist should fall sick or pass away from the health effects of this discharged raw sewage whilst swimming.
7.5 NAWEC OIL SPILL
There is an urgent need to alert NAWEC on the flow of engine oil from its machines and directly to the Kotu stream. This is worst during the rainy season when it is clearly visible .This has serious effect on our sea, beaches and most of all our birds ,fish and other animals.
8. OTHER EMERGING ISSUES AND THE WAY FORWARD
- Rolling out of clear cut Visa policy for tourists. The question of needing “clearance” from the former NIA for some nationals coming to visit the country needs reviewing. If the government is continuing the “clearance” policy the procedure to get the “clearance” need to be reviewed.
- Given the need to evolve in to a centre of excellence in terms of human resource development of the industry, the budgetary challenges of the Gambia Tourism Hospitality Industry (GTHI) needs urgent attention.
- Improving Tourism legislation in order to optimize on service delivery standards and streamlining operational issues
- Create special Incentives to attract investors in river cruise which will certainly make a difference in our tourism development.
- Do a complete inventory of land allocated to the former President (Ali Baba) within the TDA and other lands allocated and not developed and allocated to serious investors with appealing concession to add more quality beds to our product.
8.1 HARMONISING TOURISM POLICY
For the long term sustainable development of Tourism the existing tourism policies and strategies should be aligned to the various Tourism Development Plans as well as the Tourism Development Master Plan, Eco tourisms Strategy, Responsible Tourism Policy , Hospitality and Culture Strategy for Tourism Development and these consolidated into a WHITE PAPER FOR TOURISM
It must be emphasised that all these myriad of issues are interrelated and touched on a broad range of critical and cross cutting challenges, and must be addressed holistically to take tourism a notch higher and at the same time develop tourism on a sustainable platform in line with the Tourism Development Master plan 2006- 2025 and the Responsible Tourism Policy. Thus the need to pay particular attention to remedial measures , which have been designed in a way to serve as the way forward in addressing the outlined issues and challenges through a robust public – private partnership approach.
A clear concience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone