The Gambia was reported to have witnessed at least 65 percent drop in tourist arrivals last year for fear of the deadly Ebola epidemic which ravaged Liberia, Serra Leone and Guinea Bissau killing thousands prompting the World Health Organisation to declare an emergency health crisis.
Mr Njie said the tourism ministry is, in collaboration with the Gambia Tourism Board, intensifying efforts to make sure that the country not only recovered but also make up for the lost tourism suffered to the deadly Ebola virus.
He exclusively told The Standard on the sidelines of a two-day tourism marketing capacity building programme delivered by the Organisation of Islamic Conference: “The Ebola crisis did not only affect The Gambia but the tourism sector of the entire sub-region. The recovery from wreckages of Ebola crisis is to simply intensify our marketing of the destination. We are multiplying whatever we have been doing before, more than tenfold. It is a guarantee that we will see an increment on arrival after the Ebola crisis because we have put things in place that makes me optimistic of our prospective future arrivals.
“And I think it is only because of Ebola that we have a drop in arrivals this year but last year we reached a figure of hundred and seventy one thousand arrivals. And now we are working on what is needed to bring back the confidence following Ebola. Having five hundred thousand tourism arrivals is achievable and that is why I said if not for the Ebola crisis we would hit two hundred thousand arrivals,” he said.
Eying sub-regional markets
Meanwhile, the marketing director added that key players in the tourism industry of the country are stepping up efforts to make a firm presence in the sub-regional markets with particular attention on Nigeria.
He said the sub-regional market is of particular relevance because it will help in augmenting the tourist arrivals in the country in addition to Europeans.
He added: “We have already started encouraging tourism within the sub-region that is why we have appointed a PR firm call ATL in Nigeria. The importance of the sub-regional market cannot be overemphasised. We have already started engagements with other countries within the sub-region apart from Nigeria because that will complement the arrivals that we are having from other destinations like Europe. We cannot achieve the five hundred thousand tourist arrivals target from Europe alone within this short time; so that is what makes the sub-regional market important to us.”]]>