By Betty Ceesay &
Some Gambians have reacted with various views following the latest statement made by the Managing Director of the Gambia Tourism Board saying “what we want is quality tourists. Tourists that come to enjoy the country and the culture, but not tourists that come just for sex.”
This statement which was published in both international and local newspapers was widely read and has caused murmuring around the corridor of tourism as it doesn’t go down well with many people and attracted different comments as the debate goes on.
His statement was made during one of the parent ministries and officials of the GTBoard were on a visit to the UK where the UK government was urged to lend a hand in restricting their old people from visiting the Gambia for sexual purposes.
The Director had also said that the Tourism Board officials are taking on steps hoping to clean up the Gambia’s reputation for a more honorable one, unlike the one it bears as “heaven for European sex tourists.” In doing so, he said the board seeks to introduce laws that will mitigate this trend by allowing police officials to arrest anyone suspected of this act.
From a point of view, it is obvious that old grannies and grandpas from the UK, Germany, and Sweden among others are usually on a visit where they are seen getting involved with natives, usually, young boys and girls are fit to be their sons/daughters and grandchildren.
Meanwhile, these reporters have engaged Gambians to speak their minds on this matter.
Bigay Sowe, a Gambian vendor at the Palma Rima beach area reacted, on the contrary, explained that the old white ladies have helped change the lives of many young men in that area, while she further explained that she cannot be among those saying that the UK grandmothers coming into the country to pursue young boys should be stopped.
However, she said none of her relatives have been lucky to find one, but that she knows many boys whose lives have been changed positively by the old white ladies they came across.
Bigay argued with a question saying “how would they even know who is here for sex and who is here for holidays? If they stop those old grannies, many boys will suffer” she said.
A man (name withheld) who can be called a ‘Bumster’ in the Senegambia area said the Gambia is tough from all angles, and that they, the youths are not getting anything, and the government is not offering them anything.
“So, we have no choice, but to result in what is available” he continued, on that “as long as the state of affairs remains the same, we will either use the backway or fully accept the offers we get from the old white people. I don’t like African politics at all. They don’t cater to us, so how can they want to take away what we depend on? We all want to go to Babylon and the white ladies are mainly the ones we depend on to make that dream come true”.
The young continued that none of them is proud to be with these old white women but given the fact that they get help from these grandmothers to solve some of their problems, they intend to keep the trend.
In the same development, Ebrima Bojang, the security manager at the Senegambia Beach Hotel expressed great support for the initiative, stating that putting an end to the UK grandmothers coming to the Gambia mainly to pursue the country’s young boys into sexual relationships will not cause any negative effect on the overall tourism industry. He continued that allowing these acts to continue in the country will lead to a distraction to the country’s culture.
Foday Jawara, a tourist taxi driver in Senegambia said he is not happy with the statement, because he has been in the industry for so long and has made a lot of money during the winter season.
“Most of these tourists that come into the country are old, they are repeater tourists dating young men, but they also contribute a lot to the development of the country,” he lamented and challenged the Gambia Tourism Board to invest more in creating more tourist attraction centers rather than making such statement.
According to him, there are few tourist attraction centers in the country and few animal parks but not enough are making some of the tourists proceed to some parts of Senegal to see something different all because there are limited tourist attraction centers in the country.
Sira Manneh, a craft shop attendant also claimed that most of the tourists that come into the country have different motives and this may affect their businesses. She added that with this situation, she believes the Gambia will have few tourists coming in and that will be bad for the economy of the country.
“Some of the boys indeed date older tourist women for economic benefits and nobody knows, these old women may be infected with some diseases which will automatically be transmitted to their partners (young Gambian men) yes that’s a negative side but looking at the positive impacts as well it’s worth reconsidering,” she said.
Aunty Mam, a craft shop owner also showed concern about the situation, saying most of the old tourists buy more stuff from them than young ones, as the old female tourists are in most cases, the retired people and they spend a lot of money in the country which contributes to the country’s economy.
She suggested that all relevant stakeholders should be involved in discussing the matter to come up with possible solutions to handle the situation.
“Sex tourism is everywhere in the world, not only in The Gambia and I believe that our people should be more careful when dealing with most of these female tourists. This is actually the only business I am involved in and I will be seriously affected if we have those tourists not coming into the country,” she expressed
Also, a fruit vendor at Palma Rima beach claimed that these old tourists come into the country sometimes to find young men to be with them while they take good care of these young men, adding that he sees nothing wrong with that. He urged the GTBoard Director and all relevant stakeholders to reconsider their decision for the sake of the people that are benefiting from these tourists directly or indirectly.
One Steven, who claimed to have been in the industry for a long time says that sex tourism is everywhere in the world, adding that the Gambians talk a lot about it. He said these old tourist women need people to be with and there is nothing wrong with that if both partners are old enough and have a mutual understanding.