By Jimoh Babatunde
Since 1965 when a party of 300 Swedish tourists visited the Gambia, the tourism industry has grown tremendously making the sector a major income earner, but this is still a far cry from what the government wants to achieve.
The Permanent Secretary of the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Mr. Momodu Joof, said the plan of the government is to make the country an all year round destination as it is presently a seasonal destination.
Speaking with some Nigerian journalists on a FAM trip of the nation, he said majority of the tourists visiting the country are from Britain and Scandinavian countries, “these tourists come during winter as they see the Gambia as a destination they can enjoy sun, sand and beaches as well as also experience the excitement of a real African holiday.”
Joof noted that this seasonality is not good for the industry as most hotels close down during the off season leading to lay off of Gambians who are employed in the hotels.
While noting that this is not good for the country’s economy, the Permanent secretary of the tourism Ministry said they are looking forward to having Nigerians fill the gap as Nigerians are high travellers.
“Nigeria can help solve the seasonality of the Gambia tourism market and this is why we are intensifying our marketing and promotion in Nigeria by engaging a reputable advertising firm to handle that for us.
“Nigeria and the Gambia share close affinity; we have had Nigerians having weddings, conferences and religious programs here in the past. They know that the Gambia is safe.”
He promised that Nigerians will have lots to see in Gambia as the country boost of mix of high quality facilities catering to the needs of all categories of visitors.
Joof said the Gambia has quality of hotels that are competitive in the African market, “what else does Nigerians need for holidays?” He asked.
Speaking earlier the Director General, Gambia Tourism Board, Benjamin Roberts, said that the country is rich in natural water ways that extend the entire length of the country, providing excellent opportunities for water sports, fishing and inland cruising.
“The Gambia’s ecosystem also provides a sanctuary for over 50 species of birds, making the country a favourite for birdwatchers from all over the world. Along the country’s 80km coastal stretch, tourists can experience forest parks, bird reserves, dolphin sightings and sky driving.”
Roberts disclosed that the country will be leveraging on the 80km coastal stretch by organising water base sporting competition that will attract tourists to the country soon.
He added that the Gambia remains an attractive destination for visitors, primarily because of its safety, “our people are known for their hospitality and smiles.
On air connectivity, Roberts said marketing a destination is important but accessibility to the destination is more important, disclosing that the government is making efforts to have more airlines fly into the country.