The director of Finance at the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) Wednesday revealed that the institution registered an income of D54.7 million in 2011 as compared to D49.1M in 2010, which shows an increase of D5.6M (11.4%). He said the overall expenditure was D57.4M in 2011 as compared to D43.8M in 2010, resulting in an increase of D13.5M (30.9%).
Ousainou Senghore made these revelations while presenting the Board's Audited Financial Statement for the year ended 2011 before the Joint Session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises (PAC/PEC) Committee of National Assembly.
He explained that the main cause of this increase is the increase in development levy income, interest on fixed deposits and marketing contributions for their stakeholders. According to him, in 2011 operating turnover amounted to D50.4M, which came from subvention and operating activities as compared to D45.5M in 2010, representing an increase of D4.8M or 10.7%.
Senghore told the Committee that during the year 2011, GTBoard did not receive any subvention from the central government, which had shown decrease of D0.6M over the 2010 amount.
Delivering the Board's annual activity report, Benjamin Roberts, the director general of GTBoard, said the resumption of flights (Condor) and two tour operators(Thomas Cook and Berge & Meer) from the German market has been on top of the agenda at the GTBoard, adding that vast efforts have been expended and intensive negotiations have taken place.
He explained that the end result was that Condor will resume its operations in the destination and the amount requested from Condor was paid by the GTBoard with some contribution from its stakeholders.
According to him, the Board together with stakeholders and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture maintained and in some cases, increased its profile and the marketing support provided to various tour operators in Europe especially in the UK, which is their biggest source of visitors for the destination.
"Funding support from the World Bank through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture were utilised by the Gambia Tourism Board and tourism stakeholders to embark on joint marketing activities with Thomas Cook UK, TUI Holland, and the Gambia Experience. Activities ranging from E-marketing, marketing though Travel Agencies to newspaper and travel shop windows were undertaken and these remain in the pipeline for implementation for subsequent years," he further stated.
Roberts also stressed that the destination needs to have an effective marketing strategy in place to enable the effectiveness marketing of the destination.
"Urgency should be placed on availing funds for the GTB to embark on direct consumer and E-marketing for the year 2012. Early availability of funding will mean that value for money decisions can be made instead of rushing into initiatives due to time constraints and its attendant challenges," Roberts said.
He told the Committee that despite the fact that the majority ofvisitors to The Gambia originate from Western Europe and Scandinavia, the country is still not widely known as a destination.
"To reverse this trend we have to invest some funds on intensified marketing and specifically to improve the visibility of the Gambia's a destination. More focus on diversifying into new markets, effective use of the internet, aggressive e-marketing and social networking platforms will help immensely," he opined.
GTBoard head office
Roberts told the Committee that the GTBoard needs to have its own office to save on office rental expenses. He said that plans for the fencing are ready but the pending lease of the site has and continues to delay the process. "However with land allocation mandate returned to the GTBoard, the Department has started the process of acquiring the land for construction. All other logistic are being put in place for work to begin as soon as clearance is given from our line ministry," he added.
Upgrading of two hotels
He explained that the objective of this initiative was to meet the current tourism demands for highly quality beds, noting that the initiative came about when the demand for quality beds could not be met by the industry during the period. "In order to meet this immediate unprecedented demand and cognizance of the time it would take to build hotels, the option to upgrade the two-star to three-star hotels was considered ideal," DG Roberts said.
Community-based Eco-Tourism Enterprise
DG Roberts pointed out that the diversifying of the tourism product into the interior and through the introduction of new types of niche markets, eg. Ecotourism will allow communities to participate and benefit more from the development of the sector, adding that this can contribute to an improvement of living conditions in rural areas through the creation of jobs and generation of income, and mitigate the drift to urban areas.
He said the Product Development Department undertook the Ndemban Community Based Ecotourism Project, which was funded by Gamjobs amounting to D3.4M.
Speaking earlier, Bakary Jammeh, theBoard chairman of the GTBoard, said the tourism sector is very important not only in The Gambia but also globally, noting that it continues to be a leading contributor to the country's economy.
According to him, the sector contributes 12.5% to the country's GDP, with an estimated job creation of about 75, 000 jobs and growing, thus, making it one of the sectors that The Gambia has a major comparative advantage. He told the Committee that the GTBoard is mandated to promote The Gambia as a tourism destination, adding that restructuring of the Gambia Tourism Authority to Gambia Tourism Board was meant to achieve a robust and dynamic tourism industry.
He assured that the GTBoard will continue to collaborate with partners and stakeholders to promote and develop the tourism sector.
Ibrahima Sanyang, a senior compliance officer at GPPA, said GTBoard was found to be mainly compliant to the GPPA Act and Regulation for year 2011.
The PAC/PEC members and subject matter specialists then raised questions, concerns, observations and recommendations, which were responded to by the GTB officials before the report was finally adopted.