CONCERN is a monthly magazine on Tourism. It is published by the Gambia Tourism Concern, an organisation which has the aim to ensure that the benefits of tourism is given a chain effect so that many people who are excluded today may become beneficiaries.
The approach of Tourism Concern is participatory, it wants to involve as many people as possible in the industry so that both, the short term interest and the long term protection of the environment of holiday areas and socio-economic gains of the inhabitants may be assured. To do this, the magazine is to serve as a forum to educate and inform all sectors that are involved in tourism about the positive and negative impacts the industry can have on people and their environment.
Over the years the question of Bumsters or beach boys who follow tourists have been of prime concern to all those involved in the industry. What can be done to understand their situation and evolve a scheme to involve them in some gainful enterprise is also the concern of Gambia Tourism Concern. The magazine CONCERN shall be designed to address the concerns of such young people land give some them gainful employment: The proceeds from the magazine will be divided into three parts. One part shall go to the vendors, the other part shall be retained by the organisation and the other part shall be the contribution towards the cost of the magazine.
The cost of production is very high. Tourism Concern is therefore hoping that it shall receive the support of all those involved in the industry by advertising with it.
For a start, CONCERN shall be a monthly magazine and shall gradually be transformed into a weekly.
The magazine CONCERN shall be dealing with all issues of interest and shall endeavour to promote local initiatives.
We hope to launch the magazine in November 96.
Our co-ordinator or representative shall be meeting different people and heads of organisations/companies to give details of our plans and seek for advice. Your SUPPORT and CONCERN to this venture is appreciated.
Adama Bah, Co-ordinator Gambia Tourism Concern
Co-ordinator Gambia Tourism Concern, Adama Bah Interview (in parts) from tourism, Third Quarter 1996, UK
Q: What are some of the effects of tourism in The Gambia?
A.B: Tourism as a formal sector came to The Gambia through a Swedish investor who came and found The Gambia ideal for tourism and decided to start a business here. Initially there was no drive from the government to create economic development out of tourism. In 1971 a study was carried out by the United Nations to find out, how the industry could best be developed to suit visitors coming to The Gambia. But the study did not look at how the industry could satisfy the basic needs and aspirations of the Gambian people; it was more directed at satisfying investors, so it came up with a one-sided vision geared only towards the sun, the beach and the friendly temperament of the people. Following that model has had a lot of negative effects. Of course you cannot say that prostitution, drug addiction and all that was brought in by tourism, but it has certainly escalated and right now we have a lot of young people who have no employment, no other ways of survival but to look to the tourists. A culture is developing which is not rally very healthy to the development of young people. That is the cultural impact of tourism, where young people are reduced to beggars. To hassling tourists.
Q: At the same time, can tourism offer a country economic benefits?
A.B.: The economic effects of tourism are tremendous; a lot of resources are generated through the development of tourism. The point is: what proportion of those resources stays in the country for the benefit of the people, and how much does the government use for the development of the people of that country? In the case of The Gambia, much more is siphoned off outside the country than stays behind: if you take into account the links between tourism and other areas of the economy it could be as much as 80 per cent that leaks overseas. I believe tourism must be planned in such a way that whatever resources are gained must go to help develop the country's other economic sectors like agriculture and industry, so that in the long run the country becomes self-reliant. That is the whole idea of ecotourism and sustainable tourism: to see how local people involved in the tourist industry can benefit without the destruction of their culture or environment. Some tourists who come to The Gambia are not just interested in the wine bar and the beach: they are also interested in going inland, in learning something, in having an exchange. This helps local people because they can build guest houses and small tourist resorts, provide the food from their own gardens, and manage the whole thing themselves. The other advantage is that it is environmentally friendly.
Q: What lend you to set up Tourism Concern?
A.B: Tourism Concern was originally initiated by group of managers in the major hotels who thought that something needed to be done after the British government's travel advice in November 1994 that tourists should regard The Gambia as an unsafe destination. The advice was devastating for hotel employees. We didn't feel that we could just throw up our hands and look on at the situation: we lobbied the Gambian government on behalf of the hotel employees who had lost their jobs, and met the British High Commissioner to express our dissatisfaction at the travel advice. Eventually the advice was changed, but by then the tourist industry had suffered terribly. It was disastrous.
Q: Reports suggested 60 per cent of those working in the tourist industry were put out of work because of the travel advice.
A.B.: I think it could have been even more than that. And in The Gambia you're thinking not only of The people who are directly employed, but the families that depend on their earnings. If 10.000 people (that's the estimate) are made unemployed then you're thinking in terms of 50.0 00 people losing their source of livelihood.
Q: What are Tourism Concern's (words not readable)?
A.B.: There are a lot of misconceptions about tourism in our country. Sometimes the information tourists get from travel agents may not be the real, accurate information, so we feel one of the roles of Tourism Concern is to educate tourists coming to The Gambia. Also, we wish to see if there is a role in contributing to policy, in advising the government, which will enable us to prevent future problems in the industry.
Q.: What sort of misconceptions do you face from Western tourists?
A.B.: There are a lot of misconceptions about how Gambians live. People just think: "Oh, they're Africans," but Africa means different countries, many different cultures. So if you've been to Kenya it does not necessarily mean you understand what is happening in the Gambia. People need to know that.
Q.: What message would you send to British tourists coming to The Gambia?
A.B.: Learn more about the country and take a critical approach: don't just accept lock, stock and barrel everything the government an the press say. Also take into consideration that your are going to be with another people: they need to appreciate who you are and what you are. I think if these lessons are learnt by tourists we will see better people to people relations and an understanding based on cooperation, not one person seeing themselves as superior and another inferior.
Adama Bah is a founder member of Tourism Concern in The Gambia, and personnel manager of one of the main Gambian hotels.