BY KEBBA CAMARA
Peter Loosen, who talked to this reporter in a recent interview at the Lodge, said the shifting of the official commencement of the forthcoming tourist season from October to December due to the Ebola outbreak in the sub-region is a real cause for concern to operators as its means a shorter period for business.
“Many flights have been postponed until around December as the visitors are doing a wait and see regarding the outcome of the Ebola as they are afraid. This can affect the tourism season this year. The true friends would not be scared as they will be visiting the country since there is no Ebola in the Gambia,” said the Lamin Lodge proprietor.
Mr. Loosen said the international media should be specific in the way they report about Ebola by mentioning the affected countries and not to generalize it as an outbreak in West Africa.
“The tour operators should make it clear to holiday makers that there is not a single Ebola case in the Gambia and it is safe for them to visit the country,” he advised.
The Lamin Lodge proprietor said his staff is on standby and ready to start work as soon as the season is officially declared open.
“Since business is dull now, it is only half of my staff who are working,” he concluded.
Responding to the concerns raised by the tourism operator, the officials of the Gambia Tourism Board (GT Board) acknowledged that the Ebola issue is a challenge but expressed optimism that the tourist season will be good.
Mr. Ousman Senghore, Director of Finance and Administration, together with Adama Njie, Director of Marketing, have during an interview with this reporter, reiterated the concern regarding the generalization by the Western media of the scope of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and urged for the news reports to be specific as to which countries are affected.
They said this generalization of the outbreak is misleading and creating confusion regarding the facts on the ground.
“We have already started engaging our partners to discuss the way forward for this tourism season. Our customers will be coming and we are also expecting a lot of first time visitors in the country. We have lot of things to offer to tourists and that makes us unique as a tourism destination center. We have first class Eco lodges and sandy beaches. Our food and beverages festival is also a wonderful initiative made by the Gambia. You have seen the first flight which came last week Saturday and already things are looking promising,” said the GT Board Officer in Charge and Director of Finance and Administration.
The GT Board officials dismissed the claim that there are flight cancellations, but admitted that some carriers may reduce their passengers.
They also confirmed that many tourist flights have been shifted to December instead of the usual busy October and November period.