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FTI Announces Closure in Gambia as Pandemic Overcomes Tourism

Kairaba Beach Hotel

The FTI Group, the Europe’s fourth largest tour operator based in Germany has announced on Monday that the company will shut down in The Gambia due to the coronavirus pandemic which grinds tourism business to a halt.

In a press conference, the authorities told journalists that it will hand over the hotel keys of some local hotels by 15th of July including Kairaba Beach Hotel and Coral Beach Hotel to M.A Kharafi & Sons.

Based in Munich, the company is operating in 120 destinations with 4.1 billion Euros as turnover, the information obtained from company’s website indicates that it manages over 70 hotels with 8 million guests annually across its destinations as per their 2018/19 business year. It’s said to be the biggest tour operator in The Gambia.

The General Manager of Kairaba Beach Hotel, Hedi Ben Aissa who’s also the FTI representative in Gambia broke the news to journalists on Monday. He said the decision has been reached largely due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as losses incurred at The Gambian market.

      Hedi Ben Aissa

“As a result of the impact of coronavirus on the tourism industry in The Gambia, FTI invokes a force majeure at the end of April, 2020, six months before the end of the contract with M. A Kharafi & sons. The third-party mediation concluded that FTI has rights to invoke force majeure at the end of April,” Hedi Ben Aissa confirms.

This is the second time the company closes its operation in The Gambia, the first was in 2002 when it got into a deadlock with the then Jammeh’s regime. It returned to operation in Banjul again in 2017 following the change of the government.

The FTI boss said the company has no choice but to end the existing contract between them and M.A Kharafi & Sons before its actual ending of October of this year.

According to him, the company will continue to maintain its offices in the country up to a time when it finishes settling out all liabilities, debt and other overheads it owes to suppliers before facing out from the country. He added that the company’s six hundred (600) staff have also been settled with salaries and benefits up to the end of June. He said the situation leading to the decision is beyond coronavirus but also as a result of losses incurred during their operations in the country. but according to him, since the coronavirus started, the company has not been gaining any support and has been footing all the bills on their own at an unsustainable cost.

Hedi states that since their operation, FTI has paid twenty seven million, four hundred and thirty six thousand, three hundred and eighty two dalasi to its six hundred staff, adding that two-hundred and sixty-one million, four-hundred and fifty-eight thousand, two hundred and sixteen dalasi was to local suppliers as well as seventy million seven hundred forty-two thousand, two hundred and sixteen was paid to local tour operators and a total of one hundred and fifty six million, five hundred and fifty-seven thousand, nine hundred and eighty-two dalasi was paid to hotels and lodges during their 30 months operations in The Gambia.

Hedi concluded that during the company’s two and half year’s operation in the country it has paid an amount of one hundred and sixteen million, three hundred and ninety-eight thousand, one hundred and eight dalasi (D116, 398, 108.00) to Gambia government as taxes and VAT settlements.

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10 Comments
  1. Amadou T Sillah says

    Good

  2. JamesFraco says

    @Amadou T Sillah: How exactly is this a GOOD? Is it good that the country will loose +50M/y of tax revenue? Or is it the 600 jobs now lost?

  3. Mustapha says

    This is indeed a great loss to the tourism industry and The Gambia at large. Considering the fact that FTI has increase the visibility of the Gambia in the international market, attracting new visitors from Russia, Poland, Slovakia etc. The company also achieved a hard to achieve goal which is bringing visitors to the country during the rainy season making it a year round destination.

    Alot of hotels, tour operators and other businesses in Tourism could attest to the fact that FTI has contributed hugely in the economic and growth of the industry within the last 2years.

    1. Kex Jallow says

      It’s not the duty of the FTI to increase the visibility of the Gambia infact they did it because they have more to benefit than the Gambia. The FTI is a business entity they won’t poke if it’s not soft for their fingers my brother.

      The problem is our authorities like to relay on what the buyer offers them instead of them take charge of the process, if you ask me I would say all the Gambia need is an airline that operates in all major European cuties and a levey on airport taxes, then Gambia won’t be handle the numbers we are just under 6 hrs from mail Europe, that’s just a weekend away flight for most Europeans,

      At the moment cost of a flight seat is equal to per head airport tax on a passenger which makes flying to the Gambia very expensive, East and South Africa is over 8hrs from Europe but they have more tourist why Airlines ownership and less airport taxes which increases numbers and spending capabilities.

      My brother I’m not playing down the contribution FTI have made to the Gambia but we can do better without them seriously.

  4. King Kenny says

    I found this news heartbroken, Gambia only source of major income is going down the drain while the government is folding their hands focusing on politics they don’t have clue on. Moreover, all western countries, USA and even China(Adopted) are striving and fighting hard in opening their borders to visitors and investors because they are wise and smarter than us. Boosting country’s economy growth is so paramount and a must if we talking democracy and for foreign investors to be interested in Gambia, failing to focus on what matters will leads to economy woes and further ultimate pandemic called recession. Gambians are seriously struggling to cope with life on daily basis, the so called people at the healms affairs of the country are busy scoring points and indulging in witch hunting for political gains instead of improving people’s life style. This is food for thought and wake up call that things are going backwards even getting worst compared to the last government. Can the good sensible elder statemens rise up and talk sense into this incumbent President to look inwards and turn things around for good. Poverty, idleness and hunger among the citizens are so alarming, it supposed to be happy moments of change as promised when and during taking oat of office

  5. Kex Jallow says

    First of all I want to thanks Mr K A Manneh for a detail piece of reporting, as always you never relent in your writing.

    As much as this sound bad it’s also a good opportunity for the Gambia to take charge of it’s tourism industry, this shouldn’t surprise anyone who understands the operation of the tourism sector.

    And for those of you who don’t understand the Gambia tourism industry way of operations don’t be taken by the numbers they have quoted it’s just a public stun because if anything to go by the figure multiple that by ten fold or more that’s how much they have benefited from the Gambia, all they want now is to recoup all the taxes they have paid by threatening shutting down and wait for the government to intervene with tax payers money.

    I’m sorry for the 600 staff that are temporary loosing there jobs but once the world is back to normality they will get employment.

    If I have authority I will ensure all the 600 staff are paid fairly for their services and allow them to close. Then we start fresh negotiation with Gambians investors or investors that will benefit the Gambia.

    FTI might be the biggest suplier to the Gambia but they are a double edge knife cutting the cake on both side because they are package holiday which is not beneficial for the country because what they do is inundate country with tourist that have spend less 5Euros a day in the country because they have paid for all their full holidays (which includes bed, breakfast and dinner) in their country of origin, monies that our country can never be able tax.

    For some of you who are heartbroken about the prospect I got your concern but believe me if the Gambia tourism authority take the necessary steps, take control of the industry we will prosper more than ever, the fact is the Gambia is destination who’s potential is not marketed enough, but tourist will always come to the Gambia even if we were to sit down and do nothing. I don’t want to sound so naive but I’m just trying to explain how could this be the best for the country provided tourism ministry focus on market and rebranding the whole sector.

    I’m not being prejudice on this matter,but we should understand by now the west never come to Africa to make it prosper they come and gain what they can and go then someone get recruited to replace the ones leaving.

    So let not turn this into a blame game they waited to have the right bargaining chip to renegotiate their position, if the Gambia government promise a 20% tax return they will reopen as soon as possible. Because they have more to gain than the Gambians.

    Tourism is supposed to be the citizens hosting the visitors not the visitors sending or bringing in their own host to host them.

  6. King Kenny says

    Points to note, FTI is a business entity setup to generate profit. As an investor, if you not hitting your target and your expenditures are more than your take-in then you need to re-assess and address the issues that is causing your loss.
    For a 3rd World countries to develop, it needs foreign investors and viable investors therefore it is the investor responsibility to brand their products to stay afloat. For many years, Gambia Ministry of Trasport, Aviation and Tourism has not been proactive enough in promoting the country hence they always relying on foreign body to dictate when it comes to branding or enticing visitors and holiday makers e.g how many flights comes to the country on daily basis, the more the merrier and there will be competitions in prices and services which in turn will make travelling by air more accessible and affordable. At the moment what I can see with the tourist board is reacting instead of being active in promoting the country’s heritage. This is a wake up call for the board and the ministry to come out in full force to rescue and take calculative risk by investing massively in the sector for the people of Gambia to enjoy.

  7. Tebebe says

    Maybe now it’s time for Gambia to stand up proper and seek Africans and African diaspora Investments ie offer shares to ones or offer a package I’m sure there are many of us as Africans that would like to get involved I know I would

  8. Marume says

    Hello people of Gambia and Africa,
    This situation is difficult for everybody around the world and at the same time it’s a blessing for you Gambians and People of Africa to create your own businesses:
    1. Your government is weak and produce inneficient laws, so diaporans and other investors do not want to put their hard earned cash in the Gambia.
    2. Check what Art Cathey has to say about your country and you will understand.
    By the way i’m African and would like to invest in your country, but I’ll have to think twice since the laws are too complicated and not geared towards Gambians and Africans as a whole.
    It’s easier to invest in Europe, USA than in the Gambia and all the investments that you get from the Mzungu are all low revenues or NGO.
    Look at Rwanda for a good example of how it’s done.
    Gambia will still be a poor country in years to come, although there’s a big potential, unless there’s a big change in the laws to favour the people who have your best interest at heart!

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