The 2016/2017 winter tourism season is viewed by many to be a promising season for stakeholders that are directly and indirectly involved in the tourism sector. Adama Njie, Director of Marketing at the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) is of the view that this year’s season will be far better than the two previous seasons.
Toursphere recently caught with Adama Njie, the director of Marketing at the GTBaord and here are the excerpts;
Tourisphere: The 2016/2017 Winter Tourism Season began in a grand style as we have witnessed new arrivals of tourists, what can you tell us about 2016 season compared to the previous season(s)?
A Njie: The season is very promising compared to that of last year’s arrivals. There are signals that this year will be better than the number of tourists we got last year. I can give you an example – the Belgian chartered flights made its debut landing after fifteen years of break on Friday 28th October. Fifteen years ago they withdrew from the route and that this year we are having them back. Also this season Thomas Cook UK is doing nine flights per week to the Gambia compared to that of last year when they did about five flights per week, which means there is increment of 4 flights from Thomas Cook UK to Destination Gambia. Therefore, it is going to be a very promising season for the industry.
Tourisphere: You mentioned the arrivals of Belgian Chartered Flight, Thomas Cook UK, TUI Corendon flight and we have more from other destinations, what does it mean to GTBoard?
A Njie: This is good for the Destination, because it means that we are actually doing well in term of cooperation either at joint market, road show or trade fair. The arrival of different flights to the destination is good and it is more a challenge to us as we need to work harder to attract more flights. Also, it will encourage us to do more for the next season so that we can still have more arrivals than the current season. But the achievement is not just only for GTBoard’s, because, it involve everyone, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, all stakeholders in term of tourism development even you the press – all contributed to the achievement.
Tourisphere: In 2013/2014 winter tourism season over 170,000 tourists visited the Destination Gambia, far lesser than the figure that visited in 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 seasons. In your view, do you think we will be able to surpass that figure this year?
A Njie: We are very optimistic about that. Of course the past two seasons weren’t easy because of the Ebola outbreak which did not just go over night. Our number of arrivals went down the previous seasons but if you still look at the speed of our recovery we are better than other African countries because even when we got four per cent it is like minus nine percent. There are countries that have minus fifty or minus twenty percent. For this season and before December I am very optimistic that we might actually do well compared to our last arrival of 2014/2015 arrival.
Tourisphere: Can you expand on the role of e-market to the sector?
N Adama: If you look at our customer service survey you will see that 50% percent of tourists coming to the destination or has come to Destination Gambia knows about the country through the internet. That’s why our drive is through e-marketing and of course we still maintain our PR Firms. But right now the e-marketing is a major way of promoting the destination that’s why most of our joint marketing with the tour operators we make sure that at least 70 percent of it is on e-marketing. As said during the stakeholders’ forum, e-marketing is actually selling the nation. The first place to know of The Gambia now is on the internet as it sells the nation so also it is through it the country can as well get bad recognition if it is not well taken care of. So it is the number one driver.
Tourisphere: With the use of e-marketing what remain in your PR Firms, are they all doing well?
A Njie: Before we appoint any PR Firm we look and make due diligent of who to appoint as we don’t just look into one proposal but minimum of three or five and we do some researches on them and even engage their current and past partners that they have worked or are working with to look at their impact on them. When we have good expectation from them and any one of the PR Firm not meeting our expectations we have no choice than to terminate its contract. We have done that in Spain, Nigeria and as well in Germany. Any Destination that we don’t have PR Firm, we still have budget for the joint marketing with the players from those markets because it compliment the work of the PR firm.
Tourisphere: The GTBoard recently held its maiden edition of the Gambia International Bird Festival in Tendaba, while the NCAC is warming up to open its new Kankunrang Center Janjangbureh, all geared towards the promotion and improvement rural tourism, what are your current plans to promote tourism more in the Destination?
A Njie: Our job is to bring more products to light and work with other stakeholders and sister institutions like the NCAC. This is one of the strategies put in place by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture as you cannot promote tourism without culture and also you cannot promote culture without tourism, they all interlink. We would do everything possible to support NCAC and example is even the Kankunrang Center you just mentioned, we have been investing on it in collaboration with NCAC even the Juffureh Revamp Center. Coming back to the Gambia International Bird Festival, we are having over 550 species of bird in the destination and that’s why we put in place the bird festival. It just ended but we already have a date for the upcoming one next in 2017 just like our other festivals example Food and Beverage Festival, Fishing Competition and so on and we have them all in our 2017 flyers and brochures printed already. And we have started distributing them at WTM and other road shows and trade fairs
Tourisphere: What is the relationship between Destination Gambia and other neighboring Destinations in term tourism promotion?
A Njie: The Gambia is 1.8 million but many countries like Senegal really want to have MoU with The Gambia; Nigeria population is some millions and have they signed an MoU with us. When it comes to tourism many countries want to come to us as they believed we are the champion in term of tourism development in Africa. Sierra Leone is another example of countries that want to sign MoU with us and they are knocking on our doors and all these MoUs are geared towards more cooperation.
Tourisphere: Looking at the Gambia’s tourism sector with good track record in terms of promoting the Destination, what are you doing to keep up the momentum?
N Adama: If you look at our budget year-in year-out 60 percent of it is geared towards marketing. So that tells a lot as we have never reduced the budget instead our marketing budget goes up because we have to go to trade fares and selected road shows. We need to have joint marketing with our partners and we have to promote both indoors and outdoors campaigns. So those are the only thing we can do to be at that high level. Other countries are emulating us so we too also need to rise and push forward. We are hoping that soon we will get support from the World Bank to enable us do more.
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by Yunus Saliu