By Tabora Bojang
Tourism minister Hamat Bah has called for swift changes in The Gambia’s tourism marketing strategy to end involvement of tour operators in dictating service prices offered by hotels.
Minister Bah said rates at most Gambian hotels are unacceptably high for the average Gambians despite efforts by the Barrow government to encourage the industry to be under the control of Gambians.
“We must accept that it is because of our policy that Gambians have taken a lot of ownership in the industry. That is why I want to appeal to hotel owners to be more realistic in their pricings, Minister Bah said this at the opening of a forum convened to launch the process for the revision of a national tourism and culture policy and strategy.
He continued: “The level of earnings in The Gambia is very low. Covid-19 has affected every economy and businesses have suffered. If you want to promote the policy, we must also visit our pricing structure to accommodate Gambians because Gambians have the right to enjoy the best food and accommodation. Hoteliers must always bear in mind while they serve others overseas that they should also serve their own Gambian brothers.
The minister disclosed that as of December 31st 2020, at least D188 million was paid by the government to hotels during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying some “hotels have earned more money during Covid, than they ever did.”
“We adjusted some of our policies to promote domestic tourism but in the process our marketing strategy has to change. We cannot depend on tour operators to be running our hotels and determining the prices for us which is why many hotels find it difficult to do the right refurbishment even when they are fully booked because the marketing strategy is not in our hands and most hoteliers do not even know how to cost a room and if you don’t know the cost of what you are selling, somebody will come and determine it for you and you will find yourself on ground zero after spending everything on expenses,” Minister Bah added.