By Tabora Bojang
The chairman of the Gambia Hotel Association, Francis Njie has appealed to the National Assembly to consider moving future presidential elections from December to a period outside the tourist season due to concerns of political uncertainty that could have a significant impact on the tourism industry.
In 2016 when former president Jammeh refused to hand over, the uncertainty and tension that ensued led to thousands of tourists being evacuated prematurely.
According to chairman Njie, who is also the general manager of the African Village Hotel, the main reason for the delay in this year’s tourist season is next month’s presidential election.
“In view of this, we wish to appeal to the National Assembly and all relevant stakeholders to consider moving the presidential election dates from December to a period outside the tourist season,” Njie said at the validation of the first-ever tourism policy and strategy for The Gambia.
The validation held at the Sir Dawda Jawara international conference centre in Bijilo was presided over by the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hamat Bah and graced by senior government officials, civil society and tourism stakeholders.
Chairman Njie, who described the new policy as “progressive” said it is the first time in over 20 years that the government shows sympathy to the tourism sector of The Gambia.
He bemoaned the Gambia’s continuous reliance on tour operators saying “tourism relies solely and it is at the mercy of tour operators since we depend on the number of flights chartered by them during each tourist season.
“As a result, tourism continues to be a seasonal six-month affair. We call for the continued re-engagement of the National Task Force for Air Access set up by the Ministry of Tourism. The recommendation of the task force for a national airline routine within West Africa and to Europe and eventually the U.S. must be given urgent attention.”
The GHA chairman further submitted: “To progressively transform Gambia’s tourism to competitive environmentally sustainable and high impact tourism that enhances contribution to the economy, livelihood, security and returns on investment, the NCAC must from now on take the lead role in properly exposing the fine arts and culture of this country. Your challenge is now to organise periodic shows, exhibitions, competitions and festivals in which participants must have financial rewards for it to be worthwhile.”