GHA Chairman: 35% of Workers Risk Losing Their Jobs In Gambia Tourism Industry
Bunama Njie, Chairman of the Gambia Hotel Association (GHA) has disclosed that thirty-five (35) percent of workers in the tourism industry are on the brink of losing their jobs as a result of the cancellation of bookings by Thomas Cook.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority announced on Monday that Thomas Cook Group, the biggest tour operating company in the UK will cease trading with immediate effect, with all flights and holidays cancelled all over the globe, revealing that the government had asked Thomas Cook Group to launch a repatriation programme over the next two weeks.
Currently, over one hundred and fifty thousand (150, 000) customers are stranded at various destinations across the world that the company has started repatriating, while urging customers residing in the UK not to turn up to the airports as all bookings are cancelled.
The company is also the biggest tour operating company in The Gambia, supplying up to 40 percent of customers to Gambian hotels. This development has caused pandemonium across the hotel industry of the country, leaving hoteliers in great limbo barely three weeks before the start of winter tourist season.
“We received the cancellation of bookings by Thomas Cook with great shock because we haven’t prepared for this situation, especially since it is less than four weeks before the start of the tourist season,” said Bunama Njie, Chairman of GHA.
Njie, also the General Manager of Senegambia Beach Hotel, said the cancellation of bookings by Thomas Cook Group for the winter season will have a huge impact not only on hotels and restaurants, but on the government, banks and other service industries that rely on tourism business.
According to him, Thomas Cook Group is the biggest tour operating company in the country bringing over 40 percent of tourists to The Gambia, adding that the company’s cancellation of booking will affect 70 percent of hotels in the country.
“This is a very stressful time for Gambia’s tourism industry because we are expecting more than 35 percent of tourism workers to be laid off from their jobs for this coming season. We can adequately say thousands of Gambian businesses and families will be equally affected by this development,” Njie revealed.
He said major hotels such as Senegambia Beach Hotel, Kairaba Beach Hotel, Kombo Beach Hotel, Badala Park Hotel and Tamala Hotel will be affected, adding that tourists, taxi drivers, craft market vendors, fruit sellers among others will be affected too.
The Gambia Hotel Association Chair continued to reveal that his association has engaged some of the existing tour operators such as Gambia Experience, Tui Travel Tours as well as scheduled flight operators in the country in a bid to minimize the damage caused by the abrupt cancellation of Thomas Cook bookings.
Njie advised government to look into issues such as reducing operational costs on hotels, municipal taxes including Gambia Revenue Authority taxes. He said this will go a long way in keeping hotels in business otherwise, he said, most hotels may virtually close down operation.
He said the government has to start learning lessons by creating emergency funding in the event that such developments arise, recalling that similar situations such as the “British Travel Advice” and the Ebola endemic should be a learning point for The Gambia Government.