Great speech at the parliamentary Question and Answer session Mr Honourable Minister. You raised some laudable initiatives but before you sell a destination, you must first understand your product and value proposition.
The Gambia Tourism Board spends so much money travelling to Europe to sell the destination but do they know what they are selling? My guess is an emphatic NO. After so many years of operating one would have expected GT Board to chronicle all major sights and attractions in The Gambia through good audio-visual presentations in the form of mini-documentaries. Let us be serious about marketing destination Gambia and stop jet-setting the world over.
Secondly, The Gambia needs a demographic shift in the type of tourist visiting the country. Over 70 percent of tourists visiting The Gambia are senior citizens. These people lack the energy to visit most of our great sights and destinations in the country. We must, as a destination, attract millennials because they are the future and the vibrancy of our destination suits them well. Generally, it is said that ” if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but our tourism package needs refixing bottom up.
By bottom up, I mean an integrated approach to tourism with a good participatory process. The notion of a TOURISM DEVELOPMENT AREA (TDA) is the most obnoxious public policy prescription to date. How can a progressive nation demarcate the best parcel of its natural endowment (our beaches) for touristic operation? For crying out loud, dismantle that bad policy and create a mix development agenda along coastal Gambia particularly along the beach front.
How can we have an emergence of a middle class society if the growth of the middle class is capped by such a law? Gambians are as good as the very tourists you reserve our prime lands for. Our tourism package, if duly understood, will lead you to understand that it is the people and culture of this country and the hinterland not just the coast. Educate the promoters of Destination Gambia to understand our product.
I do hope we make a shift in paradigm in order to reposition Product Gambia on the global stage. Our marketers must know our products and it must not be left with international tour operators to sell because they are only interested in revenue and shifting their business to other destinations seamlessly because their loyalty is not to #BrandGambia but to their profitability. The emphasis the GT Board places on the SeneGambia area exhaust all their energy and resources.
I am yet to see a concerted effort from GT Board to position the Stone Circles of Wassu as a global iconic destination that can rival Stonehenge in England. Tourism is not #SenegambiaStrip. It is Gambia and all her destinations. Therefore, I urge the executioners and formulators of policy to understand Brand Gambia and Product Gambia better. Stay blessed Honourable Minister and I hope you and your team will expand your scope in projecting Brand Gambia outside of the confines the TDA.