Gambian Minister prioritises quality in bid to woo tourists

It’s only two years since the beautiful West African country of The Gambia turned its back on two decades of dictatorship. But already the country’s Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hon Hamat N K Bah, has drawn up a national plan designed to remind the world of The Gambia’s varied appeal.

Minster Bah, a tourism industry veteran, says the small nation has many things in its favour: “It has one of the mildest climates in the world and some of the friendliest people,” he told ITB Berlin News. “We have some of the best beaches you can find along the Atlantic coast as well as beautiful seafood. The Gambia River with its mangroves is a popular destination and we have amazing ora and fauna, including around 350 species of birds.”

According to the Minister, the biggest challenge facing the country is competition from other destinations. “In response, we are promoting ourselves as strongly as possible and also placing an emphasis of improving standards. Quality is a top priority for the government, because service is how we will distinguish ourselves.”

Notwithstanding its issues with governance, The Gambia remains a popular destination with tourist from around the world, Minister Bah said: “We are especially popular with Europeans – notably the UK, Spain, Netherlands and Belgium. We are also seeing growth from markets like Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia and Scandinavia but would welcome more support from German tour operators. The Gambia has always had a good number of German visitors, but we would like operators to help us explain that it is business as usual.”

The Minister said that The Gambia is targeting 500,000 international arrivals, and sees the Americas as another potential growth market. “We are only a six-hour flight from the Americas. We are the home of the Kunta Kinte Roots story, and this will be the focus of a range of tourism activities in 2019/2020. We are also putting a stronger emphasis on eco-tourism”.

Photo: Hon Hamat N K Bah (second right) with colleagues