Small scale entrepreneurs in the tourism industry are in a state of fear and anxiety as the 2019-2020 tourist season looms in The Gambia due largely to the collapse of Thomas Cook Group and the much anticipated “Three Years Jotna” December protest calling for the resignation of President Adama Barrow.
Tourism is the second highest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country after agriculture. The industry employs over 200,000 Gambians directly and indirectly, thus creating avenues for government’s balance of payment and sustenance for many families in the country.
The sector also continues to uplift the infrastructural development of the country especially with the building of many new hotels dotted along the country’s 40km coastline. However, barely three weeks before the start of the tourist season many entrepreneurs in the sector are not certain of what the season will hold for them.
“Obviously, we are having big expectations for the forthcoming tourist season that we think will be better than the previous season. Most of us at the craft market are putting our houses in order by stocking our stalls with new products that can captivate our visitors,” Bubacarr Bah, Assistant Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Senegambia Craft Market disclosed.
Bah told The Chronicle that he has been working at the craft market for a decade. His main source of income, it is how he feeds, clothes and shelters his family.
According to him, the collapse of Thomas Cook Group will no doubt affect the prospect of businesses at the craft market, especially since most of the tourists who frequent and patronize the various craft markets in the country are British nationals, adding that losing such a market has increased their doubts of a lucrative tourist season.
“We want to appeal to the ‘Three Years Jotna’ movement to please drop the idea of organizing a protest in December. It’s a crucial time of the season and knowing that there are a lot of families that depend on tourism, organizing the protest will scare away many tourists from coming,” said Adama “Mama Africa” Jallow, a wheelchair-bound vendor at the Senegambia Craft Market.
Mama Africa is among many other Gambian women making their living in the tourism industry. She told The Chronicle that without the tourism industry many families in the country will suffer, arguing that Gambians should do everything possible to nurture the peace and stability of the country that continues to attract tourists.
According to her, the slightest form of protest in December can backfire and crumble the prospect of a prosperous tourist season which will have an adverse effect on many families that depend on the tourism industry. Mama Africa advises that government should do everything possible to engage the members of the “Three Years Jotna” movement and find a way out before the season begins.
Muhammed Trawally operates a casino in the busy Senegambia area with high hopes for the upcoming tourist season. He told The Chronicle that the casino has been out of business for the most part of the off-season due to the absence of tourists.
Trawally said the coming of a new season is a blessing not only to him, but for thousands of youths who make their living in the industry, adding that the tourist season is the time most casinos have customers to their establishments.
“The fact that Thomas Cook Group has announced that they are bankrupt and will not be bringing tourists in the country is a grave concern to me and many operators working in the tourism industry. However, my concern is the “Three Years Jotna” movement who planned to embark on demonstration. I am appealing to them to cease their planned protest for the sake of their brothers and sisters making their living in the tourism sector because no tourists will come here once they knew there would be a protest in the country,” Trawally explained to The Chronicle.