Favourite exotic destination sees tourism plummet
Gambia was for many years a favourite exotic destination in Africa for Nordic tourists. But despite the fact that no cases of Ebola have been seen in the country, Gambia has been dropped like a stone.
As many as 12,000 tourists have visited the West African country from Scandinavia, many of them charter tourists with Thomas Cook companies Spies i spidsen in Denmark and Ving i spidsen in Sweden. But almost all tour operators have cancelled tours because of the fear of Ebola. The trips are unsaleable – even though there are no travel alerts by foreign ministries.
“There is no Ebola in Gambia,” said Gambia’s embattled tourism and culture minister, Benjamin A Roberts.
He visited Copenhagen this week with the chairman of the country’s tourist board, Bakary K Jammeh, in an effort to encourage more tourists to visit this unique country.
Last year, 170,000 tourists flew to Gambia, but the numbers have plummeted this year because of the fear of Ebola – despite the fact that Africa is a continent with very large distances.
“Gambia is at least as interested as tourists in avoiding Ebola in the country. We want both our residents and our tourists to feel comfortable in the country,” Benjamin A Roberts said.
He stressed that Gambia is not even adjacent to the Ebola-affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. It has a border with Senegal, which has been declared Ebola-free and surrounds the country.
“We screen all people arriving in Gambia by air, sea or across borders for elevated temperatures and other symptoms,” minister Benjamin A Roberts said.
Gambia has experienced a 60% fall in tourism compared to last year, and this can be felt in the national economy, where tourism accounts for 20% of GDP. The country is still sticking with its strategy of raising the number of tourists to 500,000 a year by 2020.
Gambia has one-stop flights via FRA, FRA and LON with Brussels Airlines, Vueling and Air Maroc.
“We know that we are first and foremost a sun-and-beach destination, but it’s worth remembering that we are a clean eco-tourist destination with several niches like bird-watching with no fewer than 556 species, fishing, and from this winter a homestay with modern cabins in some villages where our guests can get modern facilities and also take part in village and family life.”
[pictured: Gambia’s tourism and culture minister, Benjamin A Roberts (right) and tourist board chairman, Bakary K Jammeh]