The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has commended The Gambia on its bicentenary festival celebration. The festival, which was held from January 4-7, 2024 in the West African country, highlighted the rich cultural heritage of the people and especially slave history. In his speech about the festival, Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general UNWTO, declared the festival, which was held in Janjanbureh, a special moment for the tourism industry. “For 200 years, Janjanbureh has shown the resilience, culture, and spirit of The Gambia,” the secretary-general said.
According to him, history speaks to people at the festival on the pains of slavery, as well as the courage and the triumph of the human spirit. “The town celebrates our shared humanity and this shared spirit allows us to look to the future with hope”. He also commended The Gambia for standing strong in the face of the recent pandemic and also getting creative.
“You found a way to weather the storm. And now, tourism can once again be a cornerstone for economic growth in The Gambia.
“In 2019, before the crisis hit, our sector delivered 20 percent of GDP. I am confident we will soon get back to that and even go beyond it. But we cannot forget, with resilience must come renewal,” Pololikashvili said.
The UNWTO secretary general was also excited that the challenges from the pandemic brought opportunities that have made people to be innovative, able to diversify and to reimagine tourism. With the stability, Pololikashvili noted that it is time to share The Gambia’s rich culture and history with the world, which ranges from the paths of Janjanbureh to the beautiful Banjul shoreline and the wonderful Gambian hospitality, which UNWTO delegates and other visitors have enjoyed. He promised UNWTO’s support for The Gambia and the whole of Africa in making the festival vision a reality. He also promised to work with The Gambia to grow her innovation, promote education and deliver more opportunities – through jobs, entrepreneurship or rural development. Pololikashvili congratulated President Adama Barrow, and Hamat Bah, Minister of Tourism and Culture, on the great milestone.