By Kebba Secka
The cessation of the German tourism group FTI operation in The Gambia effective from the end of July has put over six hundred hoteliers at the risk of losing their jobs.
The managements of Kairaba and Coral Hotels in Kololi have confirmed to the press on Monday, 13th July 2020 that come end July 2020, FTI will cease operation in The Gambia.
The General Manager of both Kairaba Hotel and Coral Hotel, Hedi Ben Aissa said, “we are not making profit since we took over the management of the hotels in 2017.”
The Belgian added: “We were hoping to stay longer than we are leaving now because by virtue of a lease agreement, we could have stayed to manage the hotels for seven (7) or ten (10) years in order to be able to make profit.”
He said since the Gambia Government-imposed restrictions on their businesses after confirming the first Coronavirus case on the 18th March 2020, businesses have not been gainful for them. He said they lost more revenue now than before the coronavirus. He lamented Gambia Government’s failure to provide an encouraging stimulus package for closed business operators.
The general manager claimed that he has paid all the employees of the two hotels from March to June even though they were not operating.
Apart from low-profit making and the impact of Coronavirus on businesses, he pointed out poor infrastructure in the hotels as a problem. He explained that the Ministry of Tourism would always make promises that the hotels will be renovated and they will build more infrastructures.
“Nothing has happened yet,” he said.
The manager said their cessation of operations in The Gambia does not affect their relationship with the government or the owners of their hotels, M.A. Karafi and Sons.
“The termination letter has already been sent by our lawyers. It’s a pandemic and we would have to look for the way forward,” he said.
Hedi Ben Aissa said FTI prior to their service termination had engaged both government and MA KARAFI and Sons to come to their aid, but none responded to their request resulting to their cessation. He said effective July 13th, FTI will maintain an office to settle all its outstanding liabilities to suppliers.
He said: “Despite the pandemic, FTI is still accepting bookings from tourists in Germany and will continue to work with the partner hotels and airlines to bring tourists to the Gambia.”
Barely twenty-two years (22) after the Group stopped operations in the country FTI came again on the business spotlight in the country in 2017. This was a moment when the country transited from a dictatorial rule led by former President Yahya Jammed to a democratic one.
Since the hotels’ owners, M.A. Karafi and Sons renewed management contract for the two hotels with FTI in 2017, it has employed a total of about six hundred most of whom are Gambians.
He said their findings have shown that until 8th May, 2020, FTI Group is the third largest tour operator in Europe and in the Gambia, it runs Kairaba and Coral Hotels.
He said they are hopeful to come back whenever the business situation becomes favourable in The Gambia.
He said during their three years’ management of the two hotels, the country has benefited twenty-seven million, four hundred and thirty-six thousand, three hundred and forty-two dalasi (D27, 436, 342) in thirty months while in two and a half years, eighteen million, seven hundred and twenty -six thousand, seven hundred and forty-nine dalasi (D18, 726, 749) was paid as corporate tax. He said thirteen million, three hundred and thirty-one thousand, four hundred and eighty-nine dalasi (D13, 331, 489) was paid as income tax generation and another four million, nine hundred and sixty-two thousand, seven hundred and twenty dalasi (D4, 962, 720) was benefited by the country as expatriate tax and seventy-nine million, three hundred and seventy-seven thousand, one hundred and fifty-three dalasi (D79, 377, 153) was benefited by The Gambia as a value-added tax expenditure. The manager described their relationship with the Ministry of Tourism as friendly.