Stories by Demola Ojo
The Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest country, has decided to reignite the interest of Nigerians in the tourist-friendly country also known as the Smiling Coast.
The Director General of the Gambia Tourism Board Abdoulie Hydara, while confirming the country’s participation at this month’s Akwaaba Africa Travel Market, restated Nigeria’s importance to his country’s tourism drive.
Hydara said recently; ” Nigerians are known as high spenders and with the close proximity to the Gambia we have an opportunity to penetrate fully in this market.
“Many meetings are lined up during our presence in Nigeria to showcase what the Gambia has to offer to Nigerians. Due to the importance we put in Nigeria, the Gambia Tourism Board will appoint a Destination Manager to represent the Gambia towards the promotion and marketing of destination Gambia in Nigeria.”
Only four hours by flight from Nigeria, Gambia has always been a welcoming destination for Nigerians, who have traditionally contributed the most tourists of any African country to Gambia.
Almost entirely surrounded by Senegal with the exception of its western coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, the country’s tourism industry started when a party of 300 Swedish tourists arrived in 1965.
It was seen as an ideal place to escape the harsh winter months of Scandinavia where Europeans would enjoy not only sun, sand and beaches but also experience the excitement of a real African holiday. It also offered new opening for an affordable holiday to increasing numbers of travelling Europeans.
The number of visitors increased from 300 tourists in 1965 to 25,000 visitors a decade later and continued to rise sharply throughout the years.
The Gambian government soon latched on to tourism to diversify its economy, after recognising its potential as major foreign exchange earner.
By the 2000s, Gambia had become a hotspot for European tourists with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands contributing the most. Nigerians however came in third as the only African country that cracked the top 10 and more significantly, contributing more tourists than Sweden who came fourth.
The other countries that make up the top 10 include Germany, Belgium, Spain, the United States, Ireland and France.
While not big on infrastructure compared to European countries, the facilities available in The Gambia is attractive to Nigerian travellers especially for honeymoons and conferencing.
The Gambia is famous for its cuisine its waterfront hotels.standard hotels.
“We hope that more businesses will come to the Gambia after our visit to Nigeria. The Gambia values sub-regional tourism a lot and it’s the reason for exhibiting in Nigeria,” Hydara explained.