The NTDC boss, Mrs Sally Mbanefo, while speaking during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the corporation’s Lagos office, pointed out that the partnership between the corporation and The Gambia Tourism Board is a momentum in the tourism industry in West Africa, as the partnership will also develop and promote sub-regional tourism brand.
Mbanefo explained: “Nigeria is a great factor in the development of tourism in West Africa. We have the population, which is a great lubricant in the wheel of developing tourism. We also have the political will to explore the potentialities of the industry. Meanwhile, The Gambia is excellent in the industry. As a result, partnership with her will enable us to exchange notes and programmes, and share best practices.
“Following the partnership, NTDC staff members can go to The Gambia for capacity building and bring back the knowledge to develop Nigeria’s tourism industry. This will also enable our staff members to enlighten The Gambians on the tourism potentialities in Nigeria and tell Nigeria’s story correctly to the Gambians, thereby propelling them into visiting Nigeria.
“The Gambia Tourism Board as well can send their staff to Nigeria for training and also appreciate our tourism potentialities.”
The partnership, the NTDC boss added, will also ensure promotion of the West Africa sub-region brand and experience, adding “Our relationship with The Gambia Tourism Board will promote the sub-regional tourism with the standard of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
“It will promote travel and tourism between both countries in the areas of eco-tourism, culture, black heritage, festivals, cuisines and entertainment just to mention a few.”
Mrs Mbanefo, who described The Gambia as the first African country to sign an MOU with promise that the MOU will be actioned.
The NTDC boss used the opportunity the event offered to sell Nigeria’s domestic tourism to The Gambia Tourism Board members, encouraging them to attend fascinating and crowd-pulling festivals in Nigeria, while reeling out the national domestic calendar to the team.
Her words: “Nigeria is so blessed with innumerable fascinating natural and man-made tourist sites and attention-grabbing cultural festivals. I invite you to attend any of the festivals, and you will be glad you did.”
In his reaction, Director-General of the board, Mr Benjamin Roberts expressed the interest of The Gambia Tourism Board to work together with NTDC to promote tourism in the two countries.
“The Gambia could be said to be doing well in tourism; yet, there is always room to improve. Therefore, we are here to learn from the immense tourism wealth of Nigeria and contribute to the growth of the industry.
“Note this: we are not just signing the MOU for the fun of it, but we shall ensure that it works out for the benefit of The Gambia and Nigeria. The partnership, we believe, will also help to develop and promote sub-regional brands and experience.
“We will work together via co-branding at international events. This will enable the two countries achieve more and use less financial resources. We shall work on achieving one brand for the benefit of the two countries, and build the capacities of the workers of the NTDC and The Gambia Tourism Board. Hence, we shall come to Nigeria to appreciate Nigeria and tell Nigerians The Gambia story, while your people can also come and tell us Nigeria’s story.”
The Chairman of The Gambia Tourism Board, Mr Bakary Jammeh, who corroborated the submission of Mr Roberts, lauded the keen passion of Mrs Mbanefo at promoting Nigeria’s tourism potentialities, with emphasis on the domestic tourism, which according to him, will make Nigeria a voice in the global tourism industry.
Permanent Secretary of The Gambia Ministry of Trade, Mrs Naffie Barry, said that The Gambia, though advanced in tourism, yet always ready to improve, said, “This partnership will ensure this. It will promote regional integration. Hence, The Gambia can promote herself in Nigeria and Nigeria can also promote herself in The Gambia. We shall implement the partnership. The partnership should not be seen as between The Gambia Tourism Board, Ministry, and NTDC, but as between the two countries.
“The partnership will not only be a blessing to the two countries, but also the whole of Africa.”
Deputy Permanent Secretary of The Gambia Ministry of Trade, Ms Kodu Jabang, added that partnership will further sell the two countries as the destinations for leisure and investment.
Ms Jabang noted that “we will ensure that all the necessary machineries are put in place at the national level to make the partnership work.”