The Gambia is expected to register a ‘modest growth’ in the arrival of tourists in the 2013/2014 winter tourism season that started since late October, this year, owing to the new markets being explored by the officials of the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the Tourism Board.
The officials had prior to the commencement of the season intensified their aggressive marketing campaign in Europe – where majority of the tourists come from – and the Americas, during which they showcased what Destination Gambia has to offer as well as sell the 2014 International Roots Home Coming Festival slated for May.
The authorities have over the year also made significant progress in signing new agreements with reputable Public Relations and Marketing Firms in some destinations, all aimed at luring diverse tourists to The Gambia. For instance, The Gambia Tourism Board had entered into agreement with AVRS, a Public Relations and marketing based in Germany. The intention is for them to represent The Gambia Tourism Board in Germany, promoting tourism in that country, Slovakia and Poland.
“We also recently signed CWW (Connect Worldwide) and the objective is for them to represent us in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. If you look at the history of tourism in The Gambia, it was started by the Swedish. But if you look at the arrivals from that to date, it has gone down. So we need to revive that market and that was the reason we have signed CWW to represent us. We have attracted new airlines flying into the destination; chartered airlines that were not here. If you look at the likes of Condor, which started coming to The Gambia, they subsequently stopped two years ago. But this year, they will be flying from Frankfurt direct to The Gambia without going to Cape Verde as it used to. That means more arrival. We have Air-Europa; we have Rainbow Tours who will be flying to the destination for the first time beginning this November from Poland,” the director general of The Gambia Tourism Board, Benjamin Roberts, has told me during a recent interview prior to the beginning of the season.
From the look of things, it appears that their campaign has bore fruits with the maiden landing in the country of Polish tourists; who had been missing the beauties of the Smiling Coast. Numbering 240, the Polish tourists who travelled onboard the Canaria Travel Boeing 737, are expected to explore the unique features of the Smiling Coast.
The recent revelation by the country’s minister of Tourism and Culture that “40 tourist flights will land at the Banjul International Airport weekly throughout the 2013/2014 winter tourism season” is a pointer to the ‘modest growth’ officials have predicted for this season.
“For this season, the country will witness an influx of tourists as over 40 flights will regularly land on the shores of The Gambia every week from different tour operators,” she told journalists at the Banjul International Airport while receiving the Polish tourists.
“Thomas Cook alone will make over 12 flights to the destination every week since they have increased their capacity and number of tourists to Banjul. We are expecting more maiden flights from different countries including Russia,” she added
“Most of the hotels are already having overbooking situation in this particular 2013/2014 winter season,” she acknowledged.
The Gambia has for many years now been a choice for hundreds of thousands of European and other tourists due to many outstanding factors apart from its peaceful nature that continued to be admired as well as its proximity to Europe. It is apparent that the country’s endowed resources such as the sun, beach, nature reserves and parks, wetland environment and species amongst others, couple with the historical sites like the Stone Circle, Fort Bullen, the James Island now Kunta Kinteh Island and so on remain key attractions for travel and tourism in the country.
This very sector, the second highest earner of foreign exchange apart from agriculture, has been a key enabler in the socio-economic development of the country, contributing approximately 14 to 15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In fact, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which has been investing in economic impact research for over 20 years, “in 2012, the total contribution of travel and tourism to employment including jobs indirectly supported by the industry in The Gambia, was 17.7 percent (122, 500 jobs).”
Clearly, that shows the thriving nature of tourism in a country as small as The Gambia, with a population of 1.8 million.
However, given the fact that the country’s tourism is seasonal, it cannot be understated that there is the great need to put heads together in ensuring that these gains are not only sustained, but intensify marketing and explore more attractive product developments. That way, The Gambia’s long-drawn-out goal of “an all year round tourism” will be attained.