Thanks for giving me space in your widely read newspaper to shed light on the impact of the Ebola epidemic on our tourism sector and the people affected.
With the cancellation of flights to The Gambia for the month of November by tour operator Thomas Cook it has become inevitable that the country will be on the receiving end of less tourists. This has a direct influence on the employment and financial well being of people working in the sector.
In view of that, I cannot but agree with the call made by the opposition leader Hamat Bah who said that the government must do more to relieve the hotels of the tax burden imposed on them by the government.
The government must take concrete steps to make the impact of Ebola on this vital sector of the economy bearable for the overwhelming majority of citizens and giving hotel a tax break is a very good way to do that.
Blacks and Africans are seen in the West as poor, uncivilised and diseased thanks to poor and inaccurate publicity given to it by the media.
In the past, it used to be stories of famine and HIV/Aids but now the Western media, ill-informed about Africa, are portraying the whole of West Africa as one country. This has caused many problems for other countries that are not affected.
In a recent interview with The Guardian newspaper in the UK, the Gambian minister Gabriel Roberts said: “When the international media talk about Ebola they say ‘West Africa’ – it’s bundled together as one area or even one country. So, even though the Gambia is Ebola free, operators are facing cancellations .The people who are hit hardest are those at the bottom, the workers who rely on tourists for their livelihood and to feed their families .The government has strategies in place to keep the country free of Ebola – and make sure people know it is a safe place to go”.
This is a very reassuring and smart move but it is by no means a substitute for tax breaks for the hotels which will make the situation bearable at least for the mean time.
Imam Fatty is right
I wish to take this opportunity to thank Imam Fatty for his comments on the need for peace and harmony in the religion of Muhammad in an interview with this paper. It is a very sad thing that Gambians have had to observe the feasts of Tobaski and Koriteh on different days which has caused a lot of discord among the people.
That is why I was so happy when the president put his feet down and declared he would not allow such a situation to continue. The Gambia is a small country of less than 2 million people with a homogenous population that has enjoyed a high degree of religious tolerance from time immemorial. It is the duty of us all to maintain that for a more peaceful and prosperous Gambia.