By Yunus S Saliu
A lot of time has elapsed, and there is a need to revise the old National Tourism Policy, responsible tourism policy, tourism, culture and hospitality strategy ‘in order to provide the Tourism and Culture Ministry with an updated policy framework and strategy for the sustainable development of the industry.’
Minister of Tourism and Culture, Monday, assured stakeholders at the launching of the Revision/Development of the National Tourism Policy and Strategy of The Gambia held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba International Conference Center located at the Senegambia Strip.
Honorable Hamat NK Bah added that revision of the NTPS will also realign tourism with the overall goals and objectives of the new government blueprint –National Development Plan. “An opportunity to render coherent all the ad hoc and diverse initiatives in sector,” he said.
In his official launching address on the process for the revision of the National Tourism and Culture Policy and Strategy, he disclosed that the last such framework expired in 2000 “two decades ago.”
As such, he confirmed “between 2000 and the exodus of the former administration, there was no updated, hard and fast tourism policy or strategy that steered the operations of this vital sector of the economy.”
The Minister expressed that the revision of the policy and strategy comes at critical time, with the sector reeling from the adverse socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that has seen economies devastated globally, including Gambia where tourism sector has been particularly hard hit.
“Despite the crisis, and through our collective efforts, we also have a unique opportunity to think afresh and come up with a policy framework that will reposition the sector to not only address short-term measures to lead us of the current crisis,” Honorable disclosed.
Gambia tourism industry, as all know, plays a critical role in the coutnry’s economy, prosperity and growth “indeed, promoting and inclusive and culture-centered tourism which is the 5th strategic priority of our NDP 2018-2021.
Minister Bah harped on the impact of Covid-19 while used the opportunity of the launching to highlight on the various policy and other measures taken by the President Adama Barrow-led government to address the crisis.
These measures include “economic support, policy adjustments, partnerships and collaboration with our development partners, and investors,” Tourism and Culture Minister outlined.
Currently, he said they are working closely with their development partners – World Bank to craft short-term measures to address the recovery challenges and this ongoing work will clearly feed into the revision of the policy framework.
He added that apart from the need to provide a pathway out of the current crisis, there is an urgent need for the Ministry to articulate a comprehensive tourism policy framework and The Gambia, under the astute leadership of His Excellency President has formulated a new medium – term development strategy – NDP.
In her welcoming address, Madam Cordu L Jabang-Senghore, Permanent Secretary at MoTC said tourism has emerged as one of the success stories of the national development endeavors and a major driver of the economy and not only contributes immensely to employment generation “but also overall wealth generation for national development.”
Undoubtedly, she said, the tourism sector has increasingly gained prominence in terms of programs and investments. “Yet over the years it has not been managed and developed in accordance with a clear-cut policy and strategy even though a tourism policy was in place from 1995 – 2000.”
PS Jabang-Senghore disclosed that Gambia tourism must of necessity, undergo and unprecedented paradigm shift to better serve the country. “A transformation in approach imbedded and steered by a dedicated policy that promotes the integrated management of tourism and by this means, enhance sustainable development,” she added.