“We have started making inroads into Eastern Europe like Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia- these are markets that we are eying. Our goal is to attract 500,000 tourists by 2020. Other traditional markets such as Germany, Poland, United Kingdom, and Spain continue to serve the country but that does not satisfy us hence the need to diversify,” he said.
The permanent secretary made this revelation at the Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Training Institute (GTHTI) where key stakeholders in the sector last week concluded a two-day capacity building programme being conducted by the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Tourism Capacity Building Programme on “tourism marketing”.
He added: “We consider it important to diversify our tourist source markets and it is also a cornerstone of our tourism development policy. We know there are traditional source markets but we can lose them and a glaring example of that is the Scandinavian market which is the origin of the Gambian tourism. There was a time when we have lost the Scandinavian market and yet it is one of our traditional source markets. Now, the goal is to bring the Scandinavian market back and had it not been for Ebola, Thomas Cook Northern Europe would have brought in some tourists but that was cancelled unfortunately. But we are beginning to see a comeback of the Scandinavian market. We are also looking into the sub-regional market with special focus on Nigeria so that during the summer month, we are able to attract Nigerian tourists.”
Joof also explained that the tourism ministry has not lost sight of the challenges that insufficient air travels into the country from relevant tourist source markets pose to The Gambia’s all-year-round tourism endeavours.
According to him, the ministry of tourism is working with relevant stakeholders in making sure that the country can attract as many air flights into the country.
He said: “But in trying to make tourism all-year-round, the issue of air access comes into focus. And that we cannot diversify without solving the air access issue. We are dependent on chartered flights and that the present scenario is that chartered flights are not an all-year-round affair and the resultant effect is that air access to The Gambia, from tourism perspective, becomes a problem, hotels are empty thus Gambians are thrown out of job.
“This is why the Ministry of Tourism, as was captured in our policy, works with stakeholder sectors like the Ministry of Transport, the Office of the President, the Gambia Civic Aviation Authority, the Gambia International Airlines, the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), to try to lure more aircrafts into the country using Banjul airport as a hub. Because once that happened, then the flight chartered problems will be solved- this is what is happening in Dakar. So the policy is trying to lure scheduled flights into the country more frequently so that travellers are not dependent on chartered flights because for them also, when the volume is not there, they don’t fly. At the moment, the German market is critical because of air access. So the objective is to make tourism all-year-round and not seasonal which means we have to move away from air charters.”]]>