The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority’s recent decision to raise passenger service and security charges, as well as introduce a new passenger safety levy at Banjul International Airport, has sparked controversy and raised concerns about its impact on the country’s fragile economy and the tourism industry. In this op-ed, we delve into the potential consequences of these new levies and call for a more responsible approach to managing Banjul International Airport.
The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) recently announced its decision to raise passenger service and security charges, as well as introduce a new passenger safety levy at Banjul International Airport. While the GCAA claims that these increases are necessary to recover the cost of investment and improve airport services, the move is short-sighted and could have a detrimental impact on the country’s already fragile economy.
The GCAA’s claims of needing to recover costs for infrastructure and equipment upgrades are flawed, as they have not provided any concrete evidence of how these charges will be used to improve the airport experience for passengers. This claim of ‘improving infrastructure and services at Banjul International Airport is nothing but a smoke screen for their true intentions of lining their own pockets.
“The new charges and levy are in line with international standards and similar to those imposed at other airports” – The GCAA is trying to pass off their decision as a standard practice, however, this statement is far from the truth. Many airports in the region do not impose such high charges and levies, and it is not comparable to international standards.
First and foremost, raising charges and introducing new levies will likely deter tourists from visiting The Gambia. The country’s tourism industry is a major contributor to its economy, and any move that makes travel more expensive will likely lead to a decline in the number of visitors. This, in turn, will lead to a decline in revenue for the country and further damage its economy.
Moreover, the GCAA’s move is also likely to result in an increase in airfare. The airlines are likely to pass on the additional charges and levies to their customers, resulting in a higher airfare. This will further deter tourists from visiting the country and will have a negative impact on the country’s economy.
Additionally, it is important to question the transparency and fairness of the GCAA’s decision-making process. The GCAA states that the charges have remained constant for over 30 years, yet they fail to provide any concrete data or evidence to support their claims that the airport has undergone significant transformations or that their proposed increases are minimal and reasonable.
Furthermore, the GCAA’s decision to introduce a new levy to support aviation safety in the country raises concerns about where the money collected will actually be going.
The GCAA’s press release also states that “the airport is still contending with challenges which require huge capital outlays and immediate solutions” however it is unclear what those challenges are and if they cannot be addressed without increasing charges.
Tellingly, it is important to note that the GCAA’s decision to raise charges and introduce a new levy is not a sustainable solution to addressing the airport’s challenges. Instead of increasing charges, the GCAA should be looking for ways to increase revenue, such as by attracting more airlines and flights to the airport.
Apparently, the GCAA’s decision to implement these charges without proper consultation and consideration of the impact on the industry and passengers raises serious concerns about the transparency and accountability of the organization.
However, what is often overlooked is how these new airport levies may actually benefit neighbouring countries such as Senegal while hurting The Gambia. The additional charges and levies imposed by the GCAA may serve as a deterrent for tourists, making other nearby destinations, such as Senegal, more attractive to travellers. As a result, this could lead to a decline in revenue for The Gambia’s tourism industry and a shift in the flow of tourists to neighbouring countries.
It is imperative that the GCAA takes a more transparent, consultative and responsible approach to manage Banjul International Airport. The GCAA must engage with stakeholders, provide concrete evidence of how the additional revenue will be used to benefit passengers and the airport, and take into account the potential impact on passengers and the tourism industry as a whole before making any further decisions.