By Sailu Bah
The Ebola Outbreak in West Africa has affected not only Tourism in the Gambia, but the business sector as well. This was revealed by entrepreneurs in the business sector and staffs from different hotels during an Ebola sensitization Forum organized by Tango in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health on Friday 28th November 2014.
Speaking at the Forum, Macoumba Njie, Sunset Hotel Human Resource operation officer said the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa has affected the Tourism sector in the Gambia. He said though Gambia is Ebola free, it is still affected. He revealed that they recorded only 25% of tourists in their hotels because of the Ebola outbreak in the region. “We have very little tourists visiting the Gambia this year and we don’t know what January will bring; if the trend continues, most of these hotels will ultimately close because of high expenses with low income,” Mr. Njie opined. Njie further suggests that government should help in waiving taxes for the hotels hence they are not making any profit in order to meet their operation cost and retain their employees. He lamented that the cost of operating a hotel is very high, that the cost of electricity goes up to D200, 000 and not mentioning other expenses.
He said that the hotel association has been discussing with the GT Board for the way forward, and the GT Board has also been conducting series of campaigns abroad to encourage tourists to visit the Gambia. He expressed hope that things would go well.
Some of the hotel workers also expressed similar remarks expressing fear that some of them may lose their Jobs. They say most of the hotel workers are breadwinners of their families. They also noted that the Ebola outbreak in the region does not only affect the hotels, but affects local businesses in the Tourism Sector such as craft market vendors, taxi drivers and local fruit sellers, restaurants and others.
The staff of various hotels revealed that most of the hotels staffs are seasonal workers and have still not been called because of the low tourist season. “Compared to this time last year, our hotels were booked and we even transferred others to other hotels, but this time we do not even have 25% or 30% of guests,” explained the staff.
Lyndia Lena Renner Human Resource Manager Elton patrol station, said as at now their business is going down because of the low turnout of tourists visiting the Gambia this year. She said if the trend continues, it would in future affect their businesses. According to her, if more tourists visit the country, the hotels would require consume more fuel since they would use their machines.
“We are working very hard in sensitizing the general public on Ebola especially our customers, and we always urged them to disseminate the information to others,” she explained.
Peter Gomez, a Marketing Official at Galp station said they sell a lot of gas to the hotels which is use for cooking purposes. “Whenever tourists are around a lot of businesses would sell their products to the hotels. As we all know, tourism is a multi sectoral industry and one of the main sources of our economy, if it goes down, business goes down as well,” noted Mr. Gomez.
AlhagieTambajang, a public officer said the fight against Ebola is a collective responsibility for everyone to take part in. He also explained the major and minor signs and symptoms of Ebola and urged that any one who has a suspected patient should call this number: 1025.
He revealed people are now abusing the 1025 hotline, adding that some would call the number just to crack jokes or give false news. He said people should do away with such kinds of attitude and be serious about Ebola.
OusmanYabo said prevention is the most effective tool in the fight against Ebola. He said Tango has been engaged in a massive sensitization exercise with a view to creating awareness on Ebola.
“We are doing this sensitization programme to ensure that every one is aware of Ebola as it is the best way to prevent oneself from the dangerous and deadly disease. Some of the affected countries were not aware of Ebola, that is why it is getting worst,” he opined.