By Lamin Cham
The sudden collapse of world acclaimed tour operator, Thomas Cook of the UK could drastically cut the number of tourist arrivals in The Gambia in the coming season, officials lamented yesterday.
“Thomas Cook carried the largest share of the 200,000 arrivals last year and it would have remained so this year,” an official who begged anonymity told The Standard yesterday.
The news of the collapse of the operator has since sent chills down the spines of the Gambia Tourist Board officials, with director general Hydara spotted yesterday rushing to a crisis meeting in Banjul.
He said he was not in position to immediately give any details about the full impact of the incident on Destination Gambia this year or what remedial strategies would be put in place. “But it will certainly affect arrivals,” he said.
Another expert in the field said the absence of Thomas Cook will wipe out between 30 to 50 percent of bookings to The Gambia.
“Whereas travelers may get refunded, this could take time and even if they get refunded would they be keen to take expensive alternative carriers, if there is any, to come for holiday?” one anxious tourism operator asked.
The Standard encountered with tourist taxi operators discussing the disturbing news around the Senegambia strip.
”This is worse than the much talked about Three Years Jotna. This is uncontrollable and deeply worrying.
Whereas we could talk among ourselves and resolve political differences, this one seems to be a natural calamity about which we can do little,” one driver lamented.
Last year, The Gambia received over 200,000 tourists, majority of them were transported by Thomas Cook.
This year, the GTB is expecting 238,000 arrivals starting from next month again to be carried by Thomas Cook.
With the sudden collapse of the firm which declared bankruptcy, there is deep fear that the season will be seriously affected.