Amid concerns over its human rights record, particularly minority rights, tourist arrivals to the Gambia continue to show disappointing figures. In June 2015, the Ministry of Tourism conducted a tour across Europe promoting the Gambia as a “safe” destination which “guarantees value for money” even for first time holiday makers.
But behind the frontage of gestational peace that the Gambia government wants the world to believe, the impression about the country even from repeat tourists is one of apprehension and fear. Just last week President Yahya Jammeh declared the Gambia as an Islamic state, further adding to the anxiety of the population over human rights abuses. Even the British Foreign Office in a travel advice on the Gambia has warned that “it hasn’t always been possible for the British Embassy to gain early access to detained British nationals in The Gambia” and that “anyone travelling independently, should make sure next of kin in the UK have details of your itinerary and keep in regular touch.”
Now Sheraton Hotel, the only international brand hotel in The Gambia has finally left the Gambia since December 11th. Two weeks ago the hotel administration had sent a bombshell memo to panic stricken staff informing them about its decision to cease operation.
Sheraton Hotel has since completely removed its flag from the magnificent edifice it built in the tourist resort of Brufut Heights some 22km from the capital Banjul. The poor economy, deplorable human rights, and fewer tourist arrivals have all been cited as reasons why Sheraton decided to disassociate itself with The Gambia.
The decision has left high spending British tourists with little options to stay in a serene environment of international standard. Of late, through a combination of Gambia’s isolationist policies and a clampdown on dissent, is forcing European tourists to move to the West African country Cape Verde known for its adherence to democratic principle as their dream holiday destination. A fewer high spending tourists choosing the Gambia as their ideal destination leaves the country’s tourism industry highly vulnerable as many of the repeat tourists spend less on things that will move the economy.
As expected, Sheraton’s decision to cease operations in the Gambia was met with shock, uncertainty, and trepidation by the employees. The hotel which has been operating in The Gambia since May 25th, 2007, had 200 employees. The fate of the employees is still not known as no immediate announcement has been made yet whether new investors have taken over the brand hotel talk less of when they will start operations again.