The Gambian government is looking into new partnerships with operators and airlines to fill the gap left by Thomas Cook, according to tourism destination manager Malick Jeng.
Prior to the collapse, Thomas Cook accounted for around 40 percent of all Brits to the destination, whose economy is largely dependent on tourism (representing 30 percent of its GDP) and where the UK is the biggest overseas market.
He told Travel Weekly: “We’re talking to as many people as possible to see what we can do right now. That’s the key focus for the government. I don’t want to name any specific operators that we’re in talks with, but we have a few considering launching here.”
He said the Gambia Experience (part of Serenity Holidays) was now supplying the majority of UK visitors to the country and had picked up some of the business from Thomas Cook customers who had already booked when the company collapsed.
“Some Thomas Cook customers may have been diverted to other destinations, but some insisted on going to The Gambia and I believe they were provided with the opportunity to do so, thanks to The Gambia Experience and some of the other operators,” he said.
The Gambia Experience operates flights from Gatwick on Titan Airways and Enter Air from Manchester and Birmingham. Brussels Airlines, Royal Air Moroc and TAP Air Portugal are also continuing to carry passengers on indirect flights, according to Jeng.
Other UK operators including Olympic Holidays and Saga Holidays sell The Gambia, but Jeng said airlift was the main issue.
“We are looking at these operators, but a lot depends on finding an alternative carrier. I’m not sure if these operators are planning on increasing their product in the country yet – it’s about finding easy access to the destination with alternative flights and taking it from there.”
Jeng said so far there hadn’t been any hotel closures, but that the economic impact would likely be substantial.
“Tourism and agriculture are the two biggest industries for the Gambia,” he said. “It’s very important in terms of employment and other sectors. If Thomas Cook represented around 40 percent of UK tourism in the The Gambia, you can imagine what that means to the industry.”