Men and women who are directly responsible for putting food on the table to feed their families are now crying for their lives. Their source of survival – tourism industry – is at standstill due to coronavirus pandemic.
Bars and restaurants, casinos etc. are all ordered to shut the operation for several months now. Hotels that were ever operating at loss could no longer bear the cost because guests and public meetings have not been coming due to land borders and air space closures.
While this affects the country’s economy at a great deal considering that tourism is a major booster of the national economy – providing about 20-30 percent of the GDP, local staff who are rendered jobless are even more severely hit.
“Sitting at home doing nothing is really a terrible thing for a family man,” says Serign Bamba Njie, an employee of Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.
“It is really a very bad experience for me. To be honest with you, sometimes I find it very difficult to provide food for my family. It’s only God who is helping me to take care of my family.”
Njie is married and also sponsoring a girl in school. He has been laid off by his employer since March, causing an unbearable living hardship for his family.
“Currently, we are at the mercy of the government to give us support so that we’ll be able to provide support to our families,” he tells The Chronicle.
“This is coming to four months I’ve been sitting without salary or support from either the hotel or the government. I am appealing to the government to give us support,” Busumbala resident urged.
The industry is believed to be providing over 150, 000 employment for Gambians. And Njie’s current situation is no different to the rest.
Ebou Jallow, an employee of Al Terrace Restaurant in Senegambia has also been hit by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic resulting. He temporarily lost his job.
“The corona virus has definitely hit me and my family because since it started, I have not been working. As the breadwinner of my family, I really feel the pain at its extreme.
“It’s been more than 3 months that I did not receive any salary or support from the government.”
However, he acknowledged the support from his boss periodically as a father of one.
“We definitely need support. You can see that the Tobaski feast is fast approaching and it becomes more difficult for us now as family heads. In fact, the other day, my daughter got sick but I couldn’t take her to the hospital and this is one reason I am appealing to the government for a financial bailout,” Ebou tells The Chronicle.
For an employee of Odelice Restaurant at the Village in Kololi, Foday Sonko who has 15 years’ experience in the industry says their eyes are on their elected government to salvage them.
He told The Chronicle that the pandemic causes a lot of difficulties for him and his family including making survival problematic. He said most of his colleagues are going through the same experience.
“We definitely need government’s intervention to bail us out from this mess. Imagine being a family head and sitting at home doing nothing. What we are going through is truly difficult and we badly need help at this time especially in the face of Tobaski,” Sonko added in his voice that of his colleagues”.
A few weeks ago, the FTI Group which is the country’s largest tour operator and the fourth largest in Europe announced their closure of operation. The Kairaba and Coral Beach Hotels who are operating closely with the German’s company were deeply affected leading to further laying off of staff.