The Gambia Tourism Board (GT Board) and an economic expert have supported the Gambian Government’s newly introduced visa-free policy.
Adama Njie of the GT Board and economist, Nyang Njie, have described the newly implemented visa-free policy by the Gambian Government as a step in the right direction.
The duo said the policy would attract more visitors (tourists) to The Gambia amidst the current crisis in the tourism industry.
The new visa policy by The Gambian Government allows people into The Gambia without paying the usual visa fee that is currently pegged at sixty dollars ($60). The Government indicated that the new policy will put aside visa fees for citizens of the Commonwealth, Baltic States, the European Union and ECOWAS countries. The policy allows them to stay in the country for twenty-eight (28) days stay before regularizing their documents.
Their support of the visa-free policy came in the middle of widespread criticism by Gambians both at home and abroad. Many are concerned that the new policy could possibly result in a loss of revenue for the government (estimated at D705,000,000). The GT Board anticipates 235,000 tourists during this season and most will not be subjected to pay visa fees.
“Of course, this is the best move the government can do to attract more travelers into the country. This is the norm in many countries including Senegal and Sierra Leone. It will open up our Airport to international travelers and even attract more revenue for the country,” said Nyang Njie, Gambian economist.
He observed that it is not about the number of travelers passing through the airport and paying the $60 visa fee, but rather visitors staying in the country for more days and spending more money into the country. Mr. Njie dispelled the fear of loss of millions of dalasis as he said “the move is timely and will encourage many tourists to visit The Gambia”.
“I don’t think there is a need for fear of losses to be incurred by Gambian Government through this new policy because if we are having visitors coming into the country and spending that’s okay. In fact, the payment of visa fee by visitors is discouraging many from visiting the country and I am optimistic that this new policy will help the economy grow and make The Gambia competitive in term of arrivals,” Njie disclosed.
Adama Njie, the Marketing Director of Gambia Tourism Board said many countries are in fact implementing The Gambia’s visa-free policy, adding that this will lift the confidence of visitors coming to the country.
“I think a lot of countries are benefiting from this visa-free policy including Ghana, Sierra Leone and Senegal. And I am sure this will also help the country in recovering from the economic shock by the collapse of Thomas Cook,” said Marketing Director GT Board.
Adama says the decision to introduce the new policy was reached after an in-depth study of the situation by all stakeholders in the tourism industry, including the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, as well as the Government of The Gambia. Adding that these stakeholders have seen the importance of tourism to the economy and thus came to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to give up visa fees.
“The approval to make visa free is based on the fact that the authorities are looking at the macro picture of things not just paying visa and going out. They are looking at the contribution of tourism to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country and this move is very appreciative from our (GT Board) point of view,” said Director Njie.
Njie said the visa-free policy is long overdue as he commended The Gambian Government for coming up with the policy geared towards attracting more tourists.