With the potential for military intervention and civil disturbance being high, more than 2,500 Brits holidaying in the Gambia would be flown out.
Thomas Cook and The Gambia Experience, travel companies that flies tourists to the Gambia said it will activate an emergency plan with additional flights to evacuate tourists out of the West African nation ahead of the January 19 deadline for President Yahya Jammeh to step aside.
“We have approximately 2,500 flight-only customers in Gambia, whom we are contacting to offer the earliest possible flight availability for a return to the UK,” the travel agency said.
Those that already booked flights to Gambia with The Gambia Experience will not be able to travel, says the company.
In the Netherlands, travel company Corendon said it was sending planes to Gambia to bring home tourists. The company said 831 Dutch tourists were on Corendon vacations there.
Another Dutch tour operator, Tui, was sending five aircraft to repatriate Dutch and Belgian tourists. Tui said it had 815 Dutch tourists and 228 Belgians in the country.
Hoteliers and realtors have already reported a dent in sales since last month. The cancellations and evacuations will have devastating impacts on The Gambia economy. Tourism is its largest foreign currency earner and second biggest contributor to its GDP. It suffered a hit because of the regional Ebola crisis, although The Gambia had no cases.
Jammeh lost elections last month to a former North Londoner, Adama Barrow who return to Gambia in 2006 from the UK to start his own real estate firm after graduating college.
Jammeh is refusing to cede power and a regional military force may be deployed to oust the bizarre and brutal ruler, whose hate for Great Britain, the Gambia’s former colonial master is no secret.
In the latest of a series of attempts to retain power, a 90-day state of emergency was declared by Jammeh on Tuesday, two days before he is due to leave office.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office warned of the potential for military intervention and civil disturbance and the possibility of Banjul International Airport being closed at short notice. It warned citizens of travel to Gambia.
Despite Jammeh’s refusal to leave, President-elect Adama Barrow has vowed to be sworn-in this week and declare Jammeh a rebel if he refuses to hand over power.