At West Africa Discovery we are always looking for stories, photos, videos and articles as to how tourism can benefit local communities in destinations. The following contribution has been put forward by Sandra Asuming who spent some time in The Gambia discovering how, if sustainably and responsibly managed, tourism can have positive effects for underdeveloped countries.
Travelling to Gambia for the first time was odd as I didn't know what to expect, if am being honest, Gambia as a tourist destination was something I never considered when planning a holiday until I entered Leeds metropolitan university in 2008.
Studying international tourism management meant I would have the opportunity travel. The first trip on this course was to the Gambia and the main purpose was to explore the country, as well as discovering the benefit of tourism to one of the poorest country in the world. As a tourism student I have leant that tourism is an important sector in the economy, as it provides employment opportunities for local residents, earns valuable foreign exchange for the host destination, it can help improve social lifestyles. Tourism has been accepted as a tool for development in developing countries such as the Gambia. The industry generates a lot of employment opportunities especially for the youth in Gambia. Through tourism around 26000 people are employed either directly or indirectly. The employment figures are for full-time jobs or part-time job equivalents in the case of persons. These jobs include tour guides, beach vendors and souvenir traders. Tourism in the Gambia is thus essential to the economy and to the people. The end benefit of this is income earned by parents which goes towards their children education and the betterment of their living conditions.
My experience in the Gambia was extra-ordinary as I witness the importance of international tourism; their export earner is a big factor in the balance of payments of the Gambia. The global foreign currency receipts overtake the exports of oil products, motor vehicles, telecommunications equipment, textiles or any other product or service. Tourism jobs and businesses can be created in the most underdeveloped regions of Gambia by providing an incentive for residents to remain in rural areas rather than moving to overcrowded cities. Travel and tourism stimulate enormous investment in new infrastructure, most of which helps to improve the living conditions of local residents as well as tourists in Gambia. Tourism development projects often include airports, roads, marinas, sewage systems, and water treatment plants, restoration of cultural monuments, museums and nature interpretation centres. The tourism industry provides governments with extra tax revenues each year through accommodation and restaurant taxes, airport taxes, sales taxes, park entrance fees, employee income tax and many other fiscal matters. The Gambia has established itself as a tourism destination which caters for people who want to exchange cold weather for sunny sandy beach and sunshine. Therefore travelling to Gambia also has a benefit for individual needs and desires.
The Gambia is a peaceful and stable destination which offers the best climate in the world all year and has amazing landscapes. The country is known as the smiling coast of Africa. This makes the Gambians warm and friendly people with a contagious relaxed attitude to life. A visit to Gambia will give you the chance to interact with local people, try local cuisines, and visit historical site and most of all relaxing on the beach. During my week in the Gambia I visited a lot of interesting places such the craft market, there the local men and women craft interesting art to take as a souvenir to take back home. Serekunda market was one place worth visiting; the place has items one would not think existed. A Gambia holiday excursion consists of bird watching, boat rides on the Gambia River, a tour of the national park to see the monkey sanctuary, eco-tourism for those of you who are interested in the conservation and preservation of unique areas of Gambia.
I thoroughly enjoy my time in the Gambia and there is plenty more to explore there. It is definitely a ‘must-go-and-see’ for everyone. It is important to travel to this country as it helps increase the awareness of tourism and increase revenue to the economy and improves local lifestyles.