Adama Bah co-founder of the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET) said tourism products in the Gambia need to be rejuvenated.
“We have poor destination recognition and the attractiveness of the destination. We have been using the same products all the time,” he said.
He says Gambia has a dwindling product quality and undiversified product because of over reliant on beach tourism, adding that he does not mean that they should do away with beach tourism, but to develop other tourism areas so that the interest for coming into the country is not only for winter.
He goes on to say the country’s need to change its tourism industry and looks at diversifying the products for the benefit of bringing more tourists as there would be more choices to visit.
Bah, who was speaking at the TAF conference held on 7th January 2020, said Gambia’s tourism main product is the beach and nothing else, adding that for many years they (stakeholders) have working around the sun, sand and beach.
“And what that does is that tourists come into the country only when they have winter and the other months they will take certain destinations because the Gambia can only give them six months of tourism,” he says.
According to Bah, the Gambia is more dependent on tourism, adding tourism that is not in control is not sustainable. He says Gambia’s tourism is controlled by tour operators and as a result of that, any problems those tour operators face, the state suffers from it because it is not a narrow control.
Gambia is not keeping its environment well, says Bah. He adds that there are a lot of tree cutting activities in the country, saying tourism goes with the environment.
He says if the environment is not there, one cannot diversify because people now talk more about ecotourism which is more looking at the environment and culture.
“If we cut down all our trees, are we utilizing our environment well and are we giving credit to all those things that come with the environment?” he asks.
The degree holder in tourism management underscores the Gambia is beginning to have problems with its beaches because many years ago it did not take care of the environment since people are doing sand mining which brings the sea nearer to the bank. He also says the Gambia is just ignoring the problem and that is bringing serious coastal problems.
“Now the beach which is our product we are destroying it and of course therefore we have serious erosion and of course this is what is increasing our vulnerability in tourism, but we also have opportunities since we all know tourism comes with opportunities and employs a lot of people,” he remarks.
He explains that the basic problem is that the stakeholders in tourism are not linking tourism with the local economy, adding that when tourists come into the country they want to experience something local.