Tourism and Culture minister, Hamat Bah, Monday inaugurated the National Air Access Committee (NAAC) at his office in Banjul. The ceremony was attended by senior government officials as well as tourism stakeholders. The committee was created to have an air access for the country.
Minister Bah said there has been an air access committee before, but the difference with the new one is that it is a stakeholder private sector led and not government. "We need to change, and the only way we can do that is to engage the people to lead the process and we remain at the back to support the team as a government."
He said the international community will not come and support if they delay in creating the committee.
Mamadi Dampha, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture said that a few months ago, Thomas Cook collapsed, which was never expected but again as a government, they took steps to ensure that the tourist season is not affected, adding that the government has put in strategic measures to ensure that even though Thomas Cook has collapsed, there will be other contingent measures that will ensure that tourists keep coming.
Sheikh Tijan Nyang, a Tourism stakeholder said he had a meeting with Minister Bah months ago, on the situation in terms of air access which has been mentioned in the Master Plan, and it was recommended that there is a need to address the situation.
"We have the commitment of the development partners who are willing to assist us base on the situation of the country," he said, adding that tourism is the economic backbone of the country and authorities should ensure that they take the bull by the horn to move away from package tours.
Basiru Jawara, a well-known Gambian businessman said the problem of tourism in The Gambia is a long time problem.
Bunama Njie, chairman of Gambia Hotel Association said it is important for Gambia to have air access to make the destination prosper, which has been lacking.
Abdoulie Hydra, director general of GTBoard and chairman of the National Air Access Committee said Gambia's economy depends on tourism and the biggest challenges the industry is facing is air access. "We wish to thank the government for those initiatives, we have people who are working in the hotel industry and they know what is needed to fill their hotels."