Gambia Seeks To Diversify Tourism Sector After Pandemic Doldrums

Gambia seeks to diversify tourism sector after pandemic doldrums

Banjul, Gambia, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 22nd Dec, 2021 ) :On a beach outside a luxury hotel near Banjul, the sun loungers lie empty beneath the palm trees and straw parasols, and the waves roll in undisturbed by bathers.

The smallest country in Africa, The Gambia promises sunshine and good times in abundance, but its major clientele -- holidaymakers fleeing the chill in Britain -- have stayed away.

The tourist season should have hit its stride in October, but business has been hit for the second year running by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This is a typical Gambian beach," says Malleh Sallah, boss of the four-star 140-room Tamala Hotel, his arms outstretched.

Before the virus came, he says, the beach was full.

Today, just one Ivorian and a Dutch couple are there to contemplate the Atlantic. Away from the sand, there are more visitors in the restaurant and by the swimming pool.

A sliver of land about 480 kilometres (300 miles) long surrounded by Senegal, The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Its economy depends deeply on tourism, with the industry accounting for over 15 percent of national GDP in 2019, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Most tourists, attracted by long white beaches and its English-speaking population, have traditionally come from former colonial master Britain. The country pitches itself as "The Smiling Coast," for its welcoming people.

But virus-related travel restrictions have wreaked havoc on the crucial sector, prompting the government to try to lure visitors from other countries, including from within Africa.

Tourist arrivals fell from 235,000 in 2019 to below 90,000 in 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says. Some 19 percent of businesses in all sectors across The Gambia folded.