Gambia hosts maiden Ecowas Tourism Ministers’ Summit
Monday, June 25, 2012
The Gambia through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Friday hosted the first ever Ecowas Tourism Ministers’ Summit at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, Kololi.
The summit, which attracted ministers and high-ranking officials from the 15 Ecowas countries, was declared open on behalf of the president of Republic of The Gambia, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh by Fatou Lamin Faye, minister of Basic and Secondary Education.
In the opening statement read on behalf of The Gambian leader, Fatou Lamin Faye welcomed the Ecowas tourism ministers to The Gambia, urging them to immerse into the legendary hospitality of the Gambian people, and to visit unique and notable sites of historical and tourism interest in the country. She said tourism is a major economic pillar of the Gambia economy and that the sector has assumed greater significance in the socio-economic development of the country.
She posited that modern day tourism thrives on the beauty, splendour, variety and diversity of all that a region offers the discerning tourist.
‘The Gambia attracts tourists from diverse places around the world and remains one of the most competitive destinations in Africa,” she said. Minister Faye told the gathering that a critical and indepth look at the West African sub-region has revealed that there is a treasure trove of both natural and manmade attractions in abundance, including a plethora of world class tourism attractions, ranging from quality hotels and serene beaches, to sites of historical and cultural importance not only to West African countries but humanity at large.
According to her, the West African sub-region is well endowed with diverse natural and cultural attractions that could render their community a tourist haven in Africa. She averred that the challenges along the way towards the realisation of the meeting’s objectives, which amongst others include the tenuous and inconsistent international flight availability, often limited internal transport links, cross-border access difficulties including cumbersome visa formalities and others are not insurmountable. “With commitment and dedication of all member states and key stakeholders in the sub-region, there can be significant improvement that will facilitate sub-regional tourism, trade and business in general,” she added.
For her part, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, the minister of Tourism and Culture described the event as historic and applauded the Ecowas Secretariat for making all the necessary efforts to ensure theorganisation of the meeting after a few postponements. “Tourism in The Gambia evolved progressively to become an important factor in development and a strategic pillar of the national economy due mainly to the myriad of appropriate policies and strategies that have been designed and implemented in critical areas of product development, destination marketing, quality control and human resource development,” she revealed.
Above all, the minister indicated that the glorious peace and tranquility that exists in the “Smiling Coast” continues to contribute in no small measure to the gains that have been registered over the years. She thanked President Jammeh for creating the enabling environment for the optimum development of tourism, and expressed gratitude to Ecowas for making it possible for this maiden summit to take place on Gambian soil. Madam Jobe-Njie however pointed out that the West African sub-region has of late experienced political turbulence in many places, which invariably has had a negative impact not only in tourism promotion and development, but in the socio-economic advancement of people. “Without peace and tranquility, the development of sub-regional tourism will only remain a dream for our countries,” she stressed.
She commended the Authority of Heads of State and the Ecowas Commission for all the right moves, which are geared towards restoring peace and normalcy in certain parts of the sub-region. “This is good for our tourism industry, and as we meet here in Banjul let us all rededicate ourselves to the cause of peace in our sub-region, [as it is a] sine qua non for tourism development,” she urged. The Tourism minister suggested that the key area of cooperation should be in inter-regional tourism, as travel to multiple destinations is becoming a norm in global travel architecture, “for the simple reason that travel promotes the expansion of the tourism products, accords the visitors the possibility to experience varied products in diverse areas across borders and at the same time enhances air access”.
Ahmed Hamid, Ecowas commissioner for Trade, Customs, Industry, Mines Free Movement and Tourism hinted on some significant areas in West Africa that are not yet exploited, such as the rivers, mountains, flora and fiona amongst others, due to the fact that they are not virtually known. “In West Africa we are our own obstacles, as tourism sector is not given adequate consideration like other sectors,” he said. He therefore urged the heads of state and other stakeholders not to place difficulties on the sector “because with difficulties there will be no meaningful development for the sector”.
He also urged the Ecowas Tourism ministers and other stakeholders in the sector to work with their heads of state; hence other sectors constitute problem for tourism sector in terms of their duties. “And example of these are transportation, police, and customs among other ministries,” he added.
Author: Yunus S Saliu