Officials and stakeholders of The Gambia tourism industry are to embark on an emergency risk assessment meeting today in a bid to measure the magnitude of damage the collapse of Thomas Cook will cost the country.
This revelation was confirmed to The Chronicle by the Director General of Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard), Abdoulie Hydara, and Malleh Sallah, a board member of The Gambia Tourism Board.
This development followed the announcement by the UK Civil Aviation Authority today that the Thomas Cook Group has ceased trading with immediate effect, with all flights and holidays cancelled around the world, with the Gambia not exempted from the carnage.
Thomas Cook has been the leading tour operator to The Gambia for the past two decades, ferrying over half of the tourists’ arrivals to The Gambia each year.
Last year the company scaled up operations in the country with seven weekly flights from the UK, plus two weekly flights from Holland with an estimated two hundred and thirty-five passengers per flight.
“We (GTBoard) are to embark on an emergency risk assessment meeting this afternoon to ascertain the damage this development will cost The Gambia’s tourism industry. Of course, it’s a very serious issue at hand but I can only talk to you in detail once we are done with our meeting,” Abdoulie Hydara, Director General GTBoard told The Chronicle.
He added, “I can only talk to you when I put my house in order”.
Also speaking to Chronicle was Malleh Sallh who also doubles as a hotel manager for a host of hotels including Tamala Hotel, a partner of Thomas Cook in the country. Mr Sallah said the collapse of Thomas Cook is not only a big blow to Gambian hotels, but to the country as well.
“Thomas Cook brings almost half of all the tourists in this country each year and phasing out from the market means a great loss to this country,” Sallah told The Chronicle.
According to him, tourism stakeholders are to hold an emergency risk assessment meeting in a bid to study the environment and the level of damage this development may cost the country, adding that Thomas Cook is a major player in the tourism industry that supplies guests to nearly all the hotels in the country.
“Of course, the ceasing of operations by Thomas Cook is a big blow to our tourism industry looking at the number of employment opportunities it created for Gambians and for the mere fact that the tourism season is just around the corner,” Sallah explains.
Efforts to reach Charbel Hobeika, Managing Director of Gambia Tours proved futile as he is said to be out of the country for vacation, however, until this development, Gambia Tours has been the main partner on the ground handling tour operations for Thomas Cook in The Gambia.