Stakeholders of the tourism industry have expressed concerns to number of issues they regarded as unacceptable for the growth and development of the tourism industry. The observations were made at the Banjul International Airport where they received five tourists flights that brought close to 1,000 visitors into the country.
The maiden flights that arrived in Banjul included Thomas Cook Northern Europe (VING), Gambia Experience, TUI and TAP Portugal Airline, bringing in 365, 196, 188 and 179 passengers respectively.
“We (GT Board) are very frustrated because what we are seeing here (airport) is not what should happen and I think the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) should take appropriate action to stop this unnecessary delays. It is one thing to bring tourists to The Gambia and is another thing to take care of them after long hours of travel,” said Adama Njie, Marketing Manager Gambia Tourism Board.
According to him, the new biometric identification system used by immigration is responsible for the unnecessary delays at the airport. He said if this issue is left unsolved the first impression tourists will have coming into the country will be that of a bad one, and possibly hindering others from choosing Gambia as their travel destination.
Charbel Obeika, General Manager of Gambia Tours also expressed his disappointment regarding the delays experienced by tourists at the airport, noting that it sometimes takes more than an hour to clear less than three hundred passengers by the new biometric system at the airport.
“It is very unfortunate to keep tourists for more than an hour just to get their documents processed by immigration. Most of these tourists spend more than twelve hours before they get to the country, and keeping them for more than an hour will definitely reduce the morale. We would like to call on the relevant authorities to address this situation urgently,” Gambia Tours Manager stated.
Oumie Ceesay, Manager of Discovery Tours said, “The current situation at the airport is unacceptable and airport authorities must accept and work towards improving the facility for the common good”. Arguing that airport officials must improve on the basic services such as the cleanliness of the airport and its facilities including the toilets.
“Something that very much concerns me is the uncleanliness of the airport. It is embarrassing driving right from the airport to the hotels and these are supposed to be the best places in this country. You got to the resort areas and all you see is dumping sites every few meters. I think if we really need to move, we really need to work on the basics and that is a priority that we need to focus on is to make sure our country is cleaner,” Ceesay details.
Ceesay continues by stating that Gambia, as a destination, must also work harder to improve on the level and quality of service delivery in the sector. Observing that in order to improve the level of service delivery it has to involve all stakeholders including the airport, hotels, restaurants, and ground tour agencies among others.
“Something I think we also need to focus on improving the level of service delivery in all sectors of the industry from the airport to our operations as ground tour operators…As a whole we really, really need to focus on improving the level of service that we provide” Ceesay disclosed.