Basirou Jawara, a prominent businessman and doyen of The Gambia’s tourism industry has blamed former President Yahya Jammeh for the near collapse of the tourism industry, arguing that if the sector is to recover from the mess, The Gambian Government must move away from being a consumer to becoming an investor in the sector. Jawara, the first Gambian to own and operate hotels and airlines in the country made these remarks among others at the launch of The Gambia Air Access Committee at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in Banjul, where he also accused Yahya Jammeh of selling Sunwing Hotel and Amie’s Beach Hotel at giveaway prices to the detriment of The Gambian people.
“The last government ruined tourism, it is responsible for the collapse of Atlantic Hotel, and is responsible for the collapse of Palm Grove Hotel and Wardner Beach Hotel. The day they (military) took over the country, three tourists flights arrived from Spain for Wardner Beach but they went back and since then, no tourists has stayed at Wardner Beach for twenty two (22) years”, Jawara disclosed.
The prominent Gambian businessman argued that the collapse of these hotels were politically motivated and launched by Yahya Jammeh with the view to ruin the industry as well as target players within the sector.
Jawara, one-time owner of Adonis Hotel, Fajara Beach Hotel, Wardner Beach Hotel and Atlantic Airways, said the idea of the government setting up the Air Access Committee is a welcome one, especially at a time when many of the world’s renowned tour operating companies are facing serious troubles.
According to him, if the government is serious about air accessibility, it must be ready to invest in the sector and serve as an investor rather than a mere consumer, warning that tour operation is an expensive venture that requires serious funding if there is to be any success.
“Government must involve in the tourism development of this country; it must not only take but also to put in something. Since the start of tourism in this country, the government hasn’t put anything in and is mostly only taking and this cannot carry on,” Jawara warned.
Jawara urged the Minister of Tourism and Culture to mount an investigation on how Social Security acquired Sunwing and Ocean Bay, revealing that these hotels were clandestinely sold to one European mafia at a giveaway price by former President Yahya Jammeh.
“I want you (minister) to find how they (Yahya Jammeh and his government) sold these hotels to the European mafia. They sold it at a giveaway price less than the price of my four-bedroom house. Government didn’t get anything from the sale of these hotels and I want you (minister of tourism) to find out”, Jawara challenged Tourism Minister on the sale of the two government hotels.