By Mamour M. Mbenga

 Tourism is a major sector. Last year the Ebola outbreak was one of the major constraints that affected stakeholders in the GAMBIA BIRD WATCHERStourism sector.

This reporter visited various sectors in the tourism area to discuss with fruit sellers, Bird Watchers, Cigarette sellers, etc that work within the tourism vicinity.

Ya Ndey Kebbeh, a Gambian national and President of Gambia Fruit Sellers Association lamented the disadvantage of the Ebola outbreak during last year’s Tourist season in The Gambia compared to this year.

“I’m the president of Gambia Fruit Sellers Association. Speaking on behalf of the Association we have been operating for almost 15 years now in the Kotu Craft Market as we have our own sector with different fruit and vegetable stall owners. I have been operating as a fruit seller in the tourism industry since 1978 and currently I’m working in Kotu with other fruit sellers at the craft market vicinity. We are expecting to see change for the better, different from what happened last year during the Ebola outbreak in neigbouring countries. As the tourist season is just starting in October we pray for the success of this year’s operations and have more visiting tourists from different destinations,” said Ndey Kebbeh. She added that the majority of fruits and vegetables are imported from other countries, that is why prices of fruits and vegetables sometimes hike. The 58 year- old woman also said that lack of gardens for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables farmers is another problem for the fruit stall owners.

Another fruit vendor in Senegambia craft market also lamented the same situation of price hikes. Haddy Jatta is a Gambian residing in Kololi and owns a fruit and vegetable stall in Senegambia.

“The fruit and vegetable business faces competition with fruits imported from foreign countries. We are expecting that things will change and the tourist season is just starting now. Let’s wait and see what will happen soon or later because there is no Ebola fear this year,’’ says Mrs. Jatta. The 70 year old woman has been operating since 1988. She lamented the low returns and said sometimes they sell the whole day without making any sales. Mrs. Jatta said the fruit and vegetable stall owners pay annual license fees to Gambia Tourism Board (G.T.B). She said the licence is important.

Alagie Malick Loum alias Ass Malick, a young Gambian Cigarette Seller who has been operating cigarette business in Senegambia for almost six years now said: “I have been operating in Senegambia for the past six years with a small stall which I sell cigarettes, mint, chewing gum etc. Sometimes the business in Senegambia is very poor, things are not moving the way I want it. Many tourists come with their own cigarettes from Europe. It is not easy my brother,” says Mr. Loum.

Loum is optimistic that things may change during this year’s season, because he said the season has started smoothly and expressed hope that it will be better than last year’s. The young man also said if he gets support, he would venture into a better business to follow his dreams.

Other vendors were interviewed at Kotu industrial area in BB Kotu, the Gambia Bird Watchers Association (B.W.A) who all lamented on the constraints in the Tourism development area.

“My name is Ansumana Jawara, a Gambian born in Foni Bullock but currently living in Manjai. I’m a member of the Gambia Bird Watchers Association (B.W.A) in Kotu and bird guiding has been my profession for the past decade. The Association operates in a professional way, we work under one unifying umbrella for the interest of all and for the benefit of the Association. We don’t have daily earnings as far as bird watching is concerned. Our earnings depend on visiting tourists and the more foreign tourists we have the more we stand a better chance to work successfully. The Bird Watchers Association is operating in different areas in the tourism sector, places like Bakau layout, Senegambia and Kotu and we are registered as members of the Association and issued licence to operate.

He said this year the tourist season is expected to be successful. The assistant PRO of Gambia Bird Watchers Association Alieu Ceesay who also works as a tourist taxi driver before for almost two years and also served as a bird watcher at the Gambia Bird Watchers Association, explains the importance of bird watching in the tourism sector.

He said he is looking forward to a better season this year.

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