By Yunus S Saliu

The Gambia is one of the most sought-after tourism destinations in Africa. Destination Gambia is a small country with 1.8 million people but with lots of investments and tourism potentials.

With its tourism opportunities and potentials, Dr Taleb El Rufai, the Secretary General of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on his visit to the destination in February 2012 during an interview stated that “tourism is the oil that the Gambia does not have, but the tourism potentials that need to be exploited should be used and utilized for the good of the country and it can bring thousands of new jobs, income, stable economy and foster good harmony with people around the world.”

To make the country visible and known to the world over three decades ago as a tourist destination, Sheik Tejan Nyang, Head of the Institute of Tourism and Travel of The Gambia and former Director General of the then Gambia Tourism Authority said The Gambia was named the ‘Smiling Coast of Africa’ by the Bradford Group led by Mira Barman.

He narrated that in 1979/1980 the then Gambia Tourism Authority management thought of the necessity to have an office in New York to promote the destination throughout the United States of America, “though it was too expensive to have an office in States then,” he lamented. They were lucky to have a group called Bradford Group led by a very committed and experienced woman, Mira Barman, who had passion for The Gambia and loved Gambians, with her team of good people. She suggested that there is need to have a slogan for the country.

Suddenly, they came up with an ideal words ‘The Gambia – The Smiling Coast.’ Attention was paid to this as the group called the attention of everyone to the map of Africa taken into consideration The Gambia position in the map with the river cutting across and this was described as a Smile on the Face of West Africa.

So far it becomes a brand name which other names and slogans still cannot supersede. The Smiling Coast of Africa still remains very fitting and it gives a better description to the country and people of the destination