Gambia smiles again

By | Category: Travel news

The smile returns to Gambia. Will it grow as far as a grin?

The tourists are returning to Gambia. It must have been music to the ears of the tourism board.

Known as the “Smiling coast of Africa,” there hasn’t been a lot to smile about lately as the political crisis inside the country escalated. As former president, Yahya Jammeh, refused to hand over power to Adama Barrow who was elected on December the first last year, tourism numbers dropped. British holidaymakers were airlifted home and it looked, for a while, as though neighbouring countries would intervene militarily. That didn’t come to pass and, eventually, Jammeh left for Equatorial Guinea.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Abdoulie Hydara, director general of  the Gambia’s tourism board, is quoted as saying, “It seemed like the entire world was coming to an end,” referring to the time when holidaymakers were taken out of the country.

This small country has a population of just 1.9 million. About a fifth of their economy is powered by tourism so the lack of tourists in January – the country’s peak month for visitors – may have hit the economy quite hard.

Prior to the instability there had already been concern that visitor numbers had been dropping and that the strategy to encourage visitors hadn’t been as successful as hoped.

The new tourism minister, Hamat N.K. Bah, has already announced that Gambia will promote itself to encourage visitors. But will they be able to attract many more people this season given that, on the whole, Brits don’t holiday in Gambia in the summer when the humidity rises. Generally the temperature at any time of the year gets into the low thirties so there is no reason why Gambia shouldn’t be a summer destination and compete with places like the Canaries but with an African feel.

Last Thursday, the tourists began to return. Thomas Cook brought in a flight with 233 Brits on board. When the plane landed in Banjul it was met by people from the tourism ministry as well as a local dance group.

What the country needs now is no reported political problems and lots of positive stories about the country. Then the tourists will return

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