Momodou Joof said the traditional overdependence on the sun, sea and sand in selling The Gambia was what resulted in seasonality of tourism in the country.
He added: “We have gone beyond selling the three Ss- Sand, Sea and the Sun- in fact, if anything, the sand has begun to pose us some challenges. We are losing our beaches very fast especially in the areas of Kairaba and Senegambia. Therefore, the policy there is not one of promoting the sand but bringing back the sand. Primarily, this is just to say that we are not just dependent on the sun, sea and the sand in selling the country- these are everywhere. Dependence on these three areas of our marketing is what resulted in the seasonality of the county’s tourism because when it is warm in Europe, tourists don’t come. So the strategy is to diversify the tourism product and leverage heavily on our culture.
“The fact that the destination is dubbed the Smiling Coast of Africa, our strength is not just the hospitality of the people or our smiles but also our culture and heritage. A land mass of eleven thousand square kilometres with 1.7 million people, but home to more than nine ethnic groups with their distinct cultures and traditions- may be small but culturally, we are a giant. And I think the peace and stability that reign in spite of the religious and cultural diversity of Gambians is also critical to the development of the country’s tourism. The Gambia has so many heritage sites including UNESCO world heritage sites. There are sites that can be developed and made visitor friendly to help boost rural tourism and help in reducing rural-urban drift. It would generate employment in the communities in which those sites are found.”
He made this revelation at the Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Training Institute (GTHTI) where key stakeholders in the sector concluded a two-day capacity building programme conducted by Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Tourism Capacity Building Programme on “tourism marketing”.
PS Joof also said there is the need for the country to have a standard international conference centre in its bid to promote conference tourism.
He also revealed plans by his ministry to promote cricket, golf and other popular sports in the country in order to attract lovers of such sports in the country.
“We also want to encourage conference tourism but in doing sure, we cannot rely on Kairaba Beach Conference Hall or the Sheraton Conference Hall. We need an international conference centre if we are to develop conference tourism. We are trying to host the Organisation of Islamic Conference summit of heads of government and kings in 2018- we need that international conference centres and in fact more accommodation facilities to be able to accommodate delegates coming from fifty six (56) member countries of OIC,” he said.
“Sports tourism is also part of the government’s policy. We want to see more football teams coming to play soccer here. We are also trying to attract cricket players. Because these are things that The Gambia has not really gone into and there are niche magazines that only feature football, cricket, golf or birdwatchers- we have not been advertised in those magazines and we need to. There are people who look for where they can play cricket around the world. Places like Sri Lanka, New Zealand and even in the Caribbean. So we need to develop sports tourism. We have also the Biennial International Roots Festival established since 1996 but still struggling to stand and be strong. There are so many niche products in this country that we have not exploited fully but we can leverage on them as a marketing tool in order to diversify our marketing initiatives. This diversification will help in that if some are coming for the weather in December, someone is coming for cricket or fishing in March. There will always be something going on.”]]>