By State House Media
President Adama Barrow has highlighted the government’s policy to encourage more Gambian involvement in the tourism sector in a bid to ensure more benefit for ordinary Gambians.
According to him, more Gambian investment in the industry would be in line with the government’s plans to limit capital flight, boost more Gambian involvement at the highest levels, and foster of a strong linkage between tourism and other domestic sectors of the Gambian economy, such as agriculture, businesses, arts, culture, among others.
The president made the disclosure during an unannounced visit to four Gambian-owned hotels in the Tourism Development Area to inspect the state of work and preparations.
The hotels visited are Metzy Residence Hotel, Pamala, African Princess, and Calabash Residence. He was received by the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hon. Hamat NK Bah, and the Environment Minister, Lamin Dibba and officials from The Gambia Tourism Board. The tourism season already started three weeks ago, with several flights from the UK, Europe, and Russia.
The President also revealed that the government is aggressively pursuing plans to raise the tourism sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product of The Gambia from 20%.
“Tourism makes 20 percent contribution to our GDP. It is a great source of foreign exchange for our economy and creates thousands of jobs for the youth,” President Barrow said, stressing that the revenue generated from the sector, when retained, would be able to benefit ordinary Gambians.
Works at three of the four hotels were at an advanced stage of construction. One of them, Metzy Residence Hotel, owned by Mr. Musa Secka, is billed to be inaugurated next month. Three others are expected to begin operations early next year.
“Our strategy is to have 1,000 Gambians working for us. At the opening, we will employ 300 Gambians,” explained Malleh Sallah, Chief Executive of the 140-room Pamala Hotel – a four-star hotel that is part of the Djeliba Leisure Group.
Mr. Sallah, while taking the delegation on tour of the hotel and its facilities, explained that they hire some Gambian hotel professionals from abroad to come work for them. The furniture is exclusively made in The Gambia, using top class wood to make the highest standards for the hotel.
Similar tours were conducted at Calabash Residence, owned by another Gambian entrepreneur, Aziz Khan; the African Princess Hotel, a 141-room four-star hotel, rendering five-star services, also owned by a Gambian businessman, Freddy Blain.
Minister of Tourism, Hamat Bah, explained that the objective of the government is to support and promote Gambian ownership in the industry. According to him, the ones visited would provide top class services, expressing optimism that their presence would add a great value to the industry.
In terms of job creation and standardization, he said The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute are also undergoing reforms of both structures, curriculum, and services to train and professionalize workers for the industry.
The tour culminated into a beach cleaning exercise aimed at raising awareness and encourage more cleanliness on the country’s pristine beaches in the protection of marine resources in our ecosystem.