Gambian tourism officials have told British grandmothers they have had enough of the seedy, sixty-something sex trade, and that they want to send promiscuous pensioners packing.
The West African nation hopes to shed its reputation as a haven for European sex tourists and wants the UK Government to lend a hand.
The Gambia has become, in recent years, a magnet for British women of a certain age looking for toy boys.
“What we want is quality tourists,” Abubacarr S. Camara, the director of the Gambia Tourism Board told The Telegraph. “Tourists that come to enjoy the country and the culture, but not tourists that come just for sex.”
Mr Camara said the former British colony wanted to move beyond older female tourists and change its international reputation, which has been described as a “real-life Tinder dream for geriatrics”
Instead, it will target higher-end tourists and millennials, and promote ecotourism.
The government is also considering the introduction of laws making it easier for police to arrest local beach boys and older women engaged in suspected relationships.
The Gambia – known as “The Smiling Coast” – gained independence in 1965. Sex tourism took root after Thomas Cook launched budget package tours, including cheap flights, in the 1990s.
Near the capital Banjul the “Senegambia strip” of restaurants and bars now resembles a superannuated version of Benidorm.
Young Gambian beach boys can be seen assisting older female tourists, some old enough to be their grandmothers, out of noisy clubs and off into the night.
Most of the Gambian men who meet up with older women are motivated by the lack of jobs and low wages. By becoming a toy boy, they can earn £200 in only a few days, which is equivalent to a monthly salary.
They scour the stunning white sand beaches looking for older women, who also come from the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.
Some relationships are organised online beforehand, and the toy boys meet the women at the airport.
Hamat Bah, minister of tourism and culture, said The Gambia wanted to shift the focus away from nightlife to nature. The Gambia has over 300 different species of tropical birds, he said.
A delegation of tourist officials, which included the minister, visited the UK in June to speak with British Airways and tourism companies to boost flights from London to Banjul.
British expatriates in The Gambia are also keen to move the country’s image away from prostitution.
Annette Griffin told The Telegraph that she has built a family-friendly pub called ‘The Churchill’ to encourage more families to visit the country.
The 65-year-old from Manchester said The Gambia’s reputation as a haven for older women looking for a holiday toy boy had stopped many Britons discovering what it had to offer.
She said: “Most of the tourists that come here, come for sex tourism. But apart from the seedy side of it, there is a nice side to The Gambia. I came here nine years ago on holiday and have stayed ever since.”
Kausu Samateh, a tourist guide, said poverty was increasingly driving young men into prostitution.
He said: “People are poor here, so they have no choice. They think it is better to go to Europe where they will have a better life. They hope that the old ladies will take them.”
Lamin Fatty, national coordinator at the Child Protection Alliance, said the British government could also do more to stop its citizens from exploiting young Gambian boys.
He said: “The High Commission has shown some engagement. But it’s not only about engagement, we also need financial and technical assistance.
“There could be much better collaboration between both countries to put solutions in place.”
Source: The Telegraph