A Plan to increase Tourism in The Gambia

I first went to The Gambia 18 years ago and like many British tourists I fell in love with the country and have returned many times, including once (so far) this year.

We visited a few years ago when Ebola was rife in west Africa. It was sad to see then and today how the numbers of tourists have dropped away and the devastating impact it has on people who rely on tourism for their livelihoods.

I note Hamat N. K. Bah, the Minister of Tourism and Culture for The Gambia, who was once a hotel manager himself, suggests that The Gambia should:

  1. offer All Inclusive holiday options
  2. become a family friendly destination welcoming children rather than sex-tourists
  3. compete with Cape Verde which has 1 million tourists per year whereas TG only sees 150,000

As I’ve been a tourist in The Gambia many times, but never a sex tourist, and I have children I have lots of thoughts on this.

  1. All Inclusive in The Gambia 

Many small Gambian businesses are oppose to All Inclusive because, as the see it, Europeans hide inside the hotels and don’t venture out and spend their money. This is true of many of those tourists, nevertheless, the money they bring into the country does trickle out as there is more employment within the hotels and the major tourist companies meaning more Gambian people with paid employment. That has to be good. The small independent businesses aren’t going to be missing out because the people who choose an All Inclusive holiday would otherwise NEVER have gone to West Africa and spent their money in with independent traders. They would have gone All Inclusive somewhere else.

Luckily The Yellow-Coat tourist Guides actually help/encourage tourists to visit and spend money with small businesses in The Gambia and if all the hotels were busy those guides would be busy and they’d be taking people out to restaurants and markets.

2. Does The Gambia want Families or Sex Tourists ???

I’ll be honest, I may be blind to sex tourism in TG because I don’t go to those places because I don’t go out at night or to those types of tourist places. So if TG has a reputation for sex tourism, I’m not aware of it.

Gambia SHOULD be a very attractive destination for families with children.

SAFETY: One of the things that I most like about TG, which keeps me coming back, is how safe I feel in the country. It has very little crime so I’d feel perfectly safe on my own or with my children. People who’ve been to TG know looking out for other people is part of the culture. This is a BIG selling point, an advantage that TG has above the other African destinations.

Families with children: All Inclusive appeals a lot to families with children as we don’t know what or when our children will be willing to eat but if we know they can have unlimited ice cream, snacks and drinks then we can stay on budget. I don’t mean my family in particular. But in general, families are on a budget and All Inclusive is attractive for many families with children.

Other things families look for: On budget, flight times (excellent from the UK). Most people speak English, so it is easy to communicate. Things to do. what is the food like? Are food providers aware that many Europeans are allergic to nuts and seeds? Or that we are Vegetarian or Vegan?

The local Gambian food is delicious – British people would love it but they like to know what’s in it. For example, peanuts and cashew nuts could kill my son who has a nut allergy. Many of us get very sick if we eat eggs or dairy.

3. Should I go on Holiday to The Gambia or Cape Verde?

For me there was no question: TG is I think a similar price, the flight times were similar, but Cape Verde seems to offer a “Tourist Destination” sun and sand whereas TG offers so much more: The African mainland, culture, heritage, history. Wherever I travel in the world, I like visiting the historical sites and mixing with ordinary local people going about their business.

I’ve never been to CV, I think it offers a different type of holiday experience, which doesn’t appeal to me. I think The Gambia shouldn’t focus on the fact that it has sun and sand, lots of places in the world have those things. Gambia is unique in being a Safe tourist destination where tourists can experience Africa and communication is easy because most people speak English.

Last but most important:

SAFETY & LGBT rights

Why do 1 million people go to Cape Verde and only 150,000 to The Gambia?

I have mentioned safety, over and over. Tourists are worried by incidence they’ve heard about on the African mainland that have resulted in big trouble or even deaths of tourists: Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Morocco. All of these places are popular destinations but views with some fear.  For many reasons, by any measure, Gambia is far safer than those other African counties.

But tourism in The Gambia is severely harmed by:

  1. The laws making homosexuality illegal
  2. The many hateful statements against Lesbian and Gay people made by the former President Mr. Jammeh.

In Cape Verde homosexuality is legal. Those tourists are welcomed with their friends and families.

Many MARRIED British couples would not travel to The Gambia for fear of being arrested because their relationship is illegal in TG.

in the UK:

  • Men can marry men
  • Woman can marry women

and most of us think that’s a good thing.

We ALL have LGBT people among our friends and family.

Across Europe and much of the world LGBT people’s rights are respected and protected. People of the Same Sex can get married.

My message to the people of the Gambia is that your former President threatened the lives of Lesbian and Gay people making them unwelcome. That might only be 5% or 10% of the British population. 5 out of 100 people. But those 5 people have friends and families.

Intolerance to British bisexual, lesbians and gay men has a far bigger economic effect as those people and their friends and family are less likely to choose your country as destination. British people overwhelmingly are supportive of lesbian and gay people, of same sex marriage.

Angola recently changed the law. Tunisia and Kenya look set to change the law very soon. The intolerance of homosexuality is a small recent blight in African history, it arrived with colonialism. It should have no place in the future.

If The Gambia is to truly welcome British tourists it has to roll back the intolerance that was a part of Jammeh’s regime and welcome ALL British people not just the heterosexuals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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