The protracted political impasse caused by the refusal of ex-president Yahya Jammeh to cede power has cost the tourism sector an estimated US$4.5 million.
A travel advice from key tourist exporting nations like the UK left many Gambian hotels empty. More than 2,500 tourists were evacuated within days and tens of flights to Banjul were canceled.
Bunama Njie, the assistant chairperson of Gambia Hotel Association and general manager of one of the country’s leading hotels, Senegambia, estimated that the tourism sector might have lost at least over two hundred million dalasis after tourists withdrew from the country between 19 to end of January.
“Since the tour operators pulled out from January 19 to the end of the month, overall, we might have generated a revenue loss of over 200 million… It could surpass this as well but this is the conservative estimate… We have lost about 30 to 35% of the business,” Njie said.
But despite this complicated situation, Njie said the Gambia Hotel Association’s members have “engaged each other to say that we are not going to lay off people until at a certain time to see how businesses go”.
The officials of the Gambia’s tourism ministry including Minister Hamat Bah have confirmed having a meeting with stakeholders over the situation in the sector which they admit was “seriously” affected by the impasse.
Minister Bah and other key stakeholders in the sector have revealed their plans to the media at a press conference at Paradise Suite on how they intend to bring back tourists and even extend the season to April.
Bah, who is himself a seasoned player in the country’s tourism even after he joined politics, has narrated how a collaborated efforts between him, President Adama Barrow and various embassies in Gambia resulted to a quick revision of travel advice by western countries.
Director of Gambia Tourism Board, Abdoulie Hydara, said the impact of the impasse on the sector was more than that of the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
“Right now we are working on the impact of the political impasse on the tourism industry… What I can tell you, the impasse could be worse than the Ebola,” Hydara said.
Gambia never registered a single case of Ebola but the fear of contracting the deadly disease scared the tourists away from the entire region.
But Hydara said during the period of the impasse hotels had 0% occupancy rate as oppose to that of Ebola when some tourists visited the country despite the fear of Ebola.
“During the impasse, it was zero arrivals… All the hotels were from 95% occupancy to zero,” Hydara said.
The chief executive officer of Gambia Chamber of Commerce, Alieu Secka, also told The Torch on Monday that the impasse has had a devastating impact on businesses, though they cannot quantify the losses as at now.
GCCI is a private sector pressure group that advocates for businesses in Gambia and Secka urged the new administration to create an “enabling environment” for businesses.
The Chamber of Commerce reported that businesses reported have received queries from their suppliers, the banks were unwilling to give credit because they would not know whether this would be paid.
The political turmoil also affected the transit trade from Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Mali due to security concerns.