By Yunus S Saliu
The Gambia tourism industry which has been one of the steady sectors contributing to the Gambia GDP but witnessed a setback like other sectors as a result of the Covid-19 emergence is now gradually picking up, as its number of air arrival increased by 15% in 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
According to the data, the total number of arrivals by air in 2021 is 102,460 an increase of 15% compared to 89,232 in 2020, this is an increase in arrivals to destination Gambia for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.
“2021 recorded a significant increase in tourist arrivals particularly in the fourth quarter of the year, marking the return of tourist arrivals in Destination Gambia for the past two years 2019/2020,” Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) disclosed.
Despite the increase in arrivals in the year under review, all the Traditional Markets still decline by 35% (in 2021 compared to 2020), while total arrivals from the Non-Traditional Markets recorded a growth of 89% in the same year compared to the previous year “except for a few markets like Czechs, Italy, Poland, and China, all Non-Traditional Markets increased in arrivals in 2021.”
In destination Gambia, the winter months are the peak period from November to April of each year, from the data “arrivals in the winter season of 2021 (56,896), compared to 2020 winter arrivals (82,795) decline by 32%. The winter months being the peak period contributed 55% of the total arrivals in 2021. A decline in arrivals observed especially in January (74%), February (79%) and March (63%) affected the total arrivals, but on the hand, November and December 2021 recorded an increase of 221% and 121% respectively compared to 2020,” this as per the GTBoard records.
More so, the summer Months (Green Season), May to October, accounted for 45% of total arrivals in 2021, a significant growth as the 2020 summer period was a complete lockdown for the destination. All the summer months registered more than 100% growth in 2021.
Given a resound assurance about the upcoming season, Aboubacarr Camara, Managing Director of the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) is upbeat about the upcoming winter tourism season 2022/2023 as he expressed confidence saying the outlook is good and “is like of 2019 if not better off but not less.”
Adama Njie, Director of Marketing, GTBoard, expressed optimism about the upcoming season and noted that a 15% increase in air arrival to the destination in 2021 is a good number compared to before Covid-19 hit the country.
This he said “is an indication that the board is not relenting of the mandate given to them and also both GTBoard, Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the stakeholders are working together to push the tourism arrival,” he added.
And for the winter tourism season 2022, “I am optimistic and even the Minister of Tourism and Culture already said it clearly that he is upbeat already because he has embarked on outreach mission and the feedbacks are positive we have seen the increase in scheduled flights and we will maintain the chartered flights to exceed what we are having before,” he added.
On Nordic Leisure Travel Group which has not been coming for the past two years before canceling operations to Gambia for the upcoming winter tourism season, he affirmed that the GTBoard will continue to engage them to make sure they come back to the destination next year.