The Annual report of the Gambia Tourism Board (GTB) was yesterday adopted by the joint session of the Public Accounts and Enterprises Committees PAC/PEC of the National Assembly with recommendations to embark on eco tourism for more tourist destinations in the country.
"The tourism sector is the second largest contributor to GDP with an estimated job creation of about 75,000", said Mr. Bakary K. Jammeh, Chairman GT Board.
The GTB Chairman in delivering his presentation before the deputies said his institution is mandated by government to promote tourism destination in the country. He said the GT Board is established by the Board Act and Gambia Tourism Regulations in 2011. He further revealed that the GT Board replaced the Gambia Tourism Authority.
"The restructuring of The Gambia Tourism Authority into The Gambia Tourism Board was primarily for the objective of achieving a tourism industry that is more robust, dynamic and capable of making contributions to GDP of 25 percent by the year 2020 in line with Vision 2020", he disclosed.
Chairman Jammeh asserted that the GT Board targets to increase tourism arrival numbers from 100 thousand per year to half a million by 2020. He said the government sought the support of the World Bank for the restructuring of the institution along with budgetary support. He said the Board would collaborate with all industry actors to achieve effective and proactive visitor experience management.
"I Think the GT Board should encourage anybody who is interested to invest in the tourism sector", said Hon. Cherno Omar Jallow, member for Upper Niumi.
The Upper Niumi NAM complained about the centralization of the tourism sector within the Greater Banjul Area. He called on the Board to embark on Eco Tourism to make the industry more vibrant for tourism destination. He complained about the tour operators selling food and drinks to tourists on board, while leaving no chance for the local investors in the communities.
"We cannot sell all our lands at the Tourism Development Area but should reserve some for the future", said Hon. Khalifa Jammeh, National Assemby Member for Bakau.
The Bakau NAM commended the observation of the Board on the issue of child sex tourism which, he said, is unacceptable. He complained about the underage girls having affairs with 70 year old tourists. He calls for strict measures to be taken to prevent such type of practices in the industry.
"The GT Board should concentrate more on Eco Tourism because the tourists are tired of relaxing at the hotels", asserted Mr. TSA Njie, Subject Matter Specialist.
The Board agrees with Hon. Bafaye Saidykhan, member for Jarra East, on the issue of hunters killing animal species in the country. The Board Chairman acknowledged the fact that hunters are crossing the borders to kill species which is affecting the tourism sector. He said the Department of Parks and Wildlife is the institution responsible for such matters.
"Our focus is more on Eco Tourism. We want to make full use of the river. We need more Makasutus and Sitanunkus", he pointed out.
The GT Board Chairman emphasized the need to close down some lodges and restaurants based on health reasons. He stressed that the health of the tourist cannot be compromised in any case for it may affect the destination. He gave an example on the closure of the Lamin Lodge which, he said, is based of poor facilities and health related issues.
Meanwhile, the external auditors from the Augustus Prom Chartered Accounts have made several observations and recommendations on the financial statements of the Board. The representative of the Gambia Public Procurement Agency (GPPA) has reviewed that the institution was mainly compliant with the GPPA regulations.
Finally, before adopting the report, the committee raised strong concerns on the allocation of land in the Tourism Development Area and then proceeded adopt the Tourism Board Report.