As the tourist season has been declared officially opened last month, this reporter is assigned to monitor the economic performance of the small scale entrepreneurs in the industry such as the craft market vendors, beach bar owners, guides, food vendors, restaurants, tourist taxi operators, etc. to see how they are faring so far. The association members explained that they have been selling handicrafts in the market for several years now and that this is the business they do to be able to sustain their families. They said it is from selling these craft works that they pay the school fees of their children, house rent, food and other necessary bills. Their common complaint therefore is that the business is no longer lucrative as they are no longer making sales.
Visiting the Senegambia Craft Market at Kololi in the Kanifing Municipality, the members of the executive committee of the market association have renewed their complaints regarding the lack of sales and calling on the Tourism Authorities to act now.
"Imagine how well located this market is in Senegambia, but you will be surprised that sometimes we sit here the whole day without seeing a single 'Toubab' (tourist) who comes to look at what we are selling much more to buy", said one of the members of committee.
Mrs. Rohey Faal, the Vice President of the association, said "the business is spoilt now because there is no control in the craft market business. Go to any street corner in the Gambia and you will find people selling carvings, tie dye and batik and other items that the tourists need, so some of the tourists would go to these places where these things are cheaply sold. Whilst it is the craft market vendors who make payments to the Gambia Tourism Board (GTB) in order to do this type of business we sit here every day from morning to dusk without seeing a single customer. This is really frustrating. It is just that we cannot sit at home but coming here is also useless."
She said it is not that the tourists are not coming to the Gambia but that they are not coming to visit the markets where the GTB registered operators sell their craft works.
The Vice President of the Senegambia Craft Market said they cannot go outside their premises to sell their products because they have their own rules and regulations. She added "we are even tired of talking to the media now because every year we tell the media the same problem and nothing is being done about it. Some of us pay expensive fares to come here and go home without a single butut. The GTB should really come to our rescue now as we are really suffering", she concluded.
Foroyaa will continue talking to other small scale operators in the industry for them to identify the challenges they are facing with a view to sharing the information with the tourism authorities including the regulator, GTB.