By Sailu Bah
”Our hotel has only registered 30% of bookings by the end of March 2015 which is an indication of the poor performance in this year’s tourism season,” said Macumba Njie, the Human Resource and Operations Officer of Sunset Beach Hotel.
In an interview in his office on Thursday, 2 April, Mr. Njie added that the bookings will further plummet to 2% as at the end of April.The HR and Operation Officer of Sunset Beach, a three star Hotel located around the Kotu Stream in the Kanifing Municipality, said their performance this season has significantly dropped compared to the previous years which he attributes to the Ebola virus outbreak in some countries in West Africa.
Mr. Njie revealed that in previous years they used to have more than 80% occupancy. “There were times when we even transfer our guests to other hotels in order to avoid over booking,” he added.
“Sometimes we avoid over booking of tourist or transferring tourist to other hotels, in the past years” he explained.
”The bookings in the hotel around December 2014 were at 25 percent,” he said.
Mr. Njie disclosed that 46 out of 97 rooms are currently booked but that the occupancy will drop to 19 rooms by 14 April.
“We are having more staff than tourists in our hotel. On the 20 April we will have only 4 rooms occupied and this figure will further drop down to 2 rooms on the 22 April,” revealed the HR and Operation Officer.
He said the hotel has a staff roll of seventy but that it is inevitable that about 20 or 15 workers will be losing their jobs because of the poor season.
The Sunset Hotel HR and Operation Officer said it is very expensive to run a hotel, adding that they spend at least D200, 000 every month on electricity which excludes salaries and other essential operational costs.
Mr. Njie also cited another problem which, he said, is affecting the tourism sector and this is the depreciation of the Gambian Dalasi against foreign currencies. He said this has a great negative impact on their operations in the sector. He added that this is exacerbated by the low tourist’s arrival which means availability of less foreign currency.
The Sunset Beach Hotel HR and Operation Officer said the government should intervene to assist hotels and save them from closing down by way of waiving taxes or any other support to enable them to reduce operational costs.
“With or without customers, the hotel must be paying its fix costs, such
as salaries, utility bills and maintenance of the hotel. You can only avoid this cost if you shut down your hotel,” he added.
He, however, noted that there is a positive development in that some potential tourists have now been sensitised through other tourists who have already visited the Gambia that the country is Ebola free.
”We are hoping that things will change for the better come the next tourist season,” he said with optimism.
Mr. Njie said their hotel has introduced an “alternative contract” arrangement in which some casual workers are engaged on a rotational or turn by turn basis in order for them not to sit down without work for the whole off-season period.