GAMBIA TOURISM: ‘Wonderful and genuine people’
Gambia’s borders make it one of the most unusual countries in the world. About twice the size of Delaware, and with a population of 1.6 million, essentially it is a sliver of land surrounding the Gambia River, which rises within the country’s borders and runs down to the Atlantic Ocean at the western tip of Africa. The life of the country flows with the river, from remote interior villages to the capital, Banjul, on the coast.
For some years now, Gambia has been a popular tourist destination for Europeans seeking winter sun and sand vacations. And, as a former British colony, Gambia has been especially popular with British tourists.
In early December, though, the government secretary in charge of tourism, Angela B. Colley, paid a visit to Washington to see what can be done to increase the flow of American tourists to her country.
She sat down with DiplomaticTraffic.com to talk about what her country offers, and what it is doing to woo American tourists. For some years, already, it has carved out a special niche as a destination for African Americans seeking their roots. This came about when Alex Haley famously traced his own origins to Gambia in his landmark book, Roots. Every two years, Gambia hosts a Roots festival for some 4,500 African Americans who want to reconnect to the home of their ancestors.
But Colley and her government would like to see a broader tourism flow to Gambia from the United States. With a new weekly flight by North American Airlines that goes directly from BWI to Banjul at least now there is an easy way to get there, especially for Washington-area residents.
Working with travel agents and tour operators, the Gambians hope to make their country a sought-after destination for thousands of Americans.
Colley enumerates some of the reasons one would want to visit. A primary reason might be that Gambia is now the nearest African country to Washington. English is the common language there (although there are a number of tribal languages as well). And Gambia is stable and peaceful, with a hospitable people.
“We have nice and wonderful people,” says Colley, “who are very genuine.”
The Gambia River is home to some 500 species of birds as well as many of Africa’s typical fauna and flora, and the tourism authorities there hope that Americans will want to visit the country for its ecotourism as well as its African culture.
So far, though, the tourists making their way to Gambia have generally been part of package tours, and part of Gambia’s goal in tackling the US market is to attract high-end visitors. To this end, several up-scale hotels and lodges have been built, and six new hotels with some 2,000 rooms are to be added to the current 6,000 rooms within the next few months. Among the new properties is a Sheraton.
This year Gambia saw some 107,000 tourist visitors, an increase of 19.2 percent over the previous year. Tourism is the second largest sector in the country, employs 100,000 people and accounts for 16 percent of the GDP.
Biography of Angela B. Colley
NAME: Angela B. Colley
DATE OF BIRTH: 13th November 1964
MARITAL STATUS: Single
EDUCATION INSTITUTION: YEAR
2001-2003 - UNIVERSITY: University of The Gambia
1992-1994 - COLLEGE Gambia College Brikama
1988-1992 - Gambia College Brikama
1978-1984 - HIGH SCHOOL St. Peter's Tech. High Lamin
1976-1978 - PRIMARY St martin's Primary Kartong
1971-1976 - St Therese's Primary Kanifing
QUALIFICATIONS CERTIFICATE: YEAR
2003 - DEGREE Bachelors In Education
1994 - Higher Teachers Certificate (Double Majors History /English)
1990 - PROFESSIONAL Primary Teachers Certificate
1984 - ACADEMIC G.C.E. O' Level
WORK EXPERIENCE YEAR
2006 - Secretary of State
2003 -Oct. 2006 - Abuko Upper Basic School Abuko (AG Vice Principal)
1999-2001 - Ndugu Kebbeh Upper Basic Cycle (Acting Principal)
1996-1999 - Greater Banjul Upper Basic School – Kanifing
1994-1996 - Kerewan Junior Secondary School – Kerewan
1990-1992 - Munyagen Primary School – Jokadu
1998 - (Jan. to July) St. Joseph's Ex-Pupil Nursery School
1999 - Lead Teacher's Certificate
1997 - Environment Education (Novo Scotia Gambia Association) Participant
1997/1998 - Guidance/Counseling Stage 1&2