The Tourism Minister Hamat Bah has taken a swipe at journalists over media reports linking The Gambia to sex tourism.
There have been a lot of media reports referring to the country as a hotspot for European tourists looking for sex with the locals. The Gambia relies heavily on tourism for economic growth and journalists, especially those from the West have attributed this to sex tourism.
In response, Bah said such journalists do not understand what sex tourism is all about, arguing that what is known as sex tourism does not take place in The Gambia. He made international headlines in January 2018 when he said on television that “tourists who are looking for sex can go to Thailand because Gambia is not their destination.” The government was forced to apologize for his remarks following protest from the Thai authorities.
“I still stand by my words that there is no sex tourism in The Gambia because sex tourism is sanctioned, well-organised and managed by the state and this is not in this country,” Bah told journalists Friday.
According to him prostitution is taking place all over the world and that The Gambia shouldn’t be singled out. He said any journalist taken to court for writing about sex tourism in The Gambia will be indicted, but added that the government wouldn’t resort to court action. He called on Gambian journalists not to be “used by foreign agents to write negative stories about their own country that they cherish and love.”
Bah said sex tourism and other negative stories in the media put off many holidaymakers from coming to The Gambia.
“Please I want to appeal to you. You can write because that is your right, but it’s also your supreme duty to protect the interest of this country and I think that cannot be compromised or sold for anything.”
Bah said despite the negative publicity, The Gambia registered a significant increase in both the number of tourist arrivals and the economy it generated during the 2018/2019 season.
According to him, arrival figures have increased from 162,000 visitors to 209,000, adding that the figures could have been higher.
“I believe that our arrival figures are more than what have been captured because people come through many of the porous borders into this country. We recorded an increase of 28 percent last year which is remarkable and our target to reach the NDP goal is half a million tourists by the year 2021,” Bah told journalists.
The minister also mocked the Banjul International Airport, describing it as the most boring airport in the world. He called for reforms to make the airport more effective for tourism growth.
Bah also announced that foreign musicians who come to The Gambia to perform will now pay tax to the National Council for Arts and Culture for the interest of the country.