Tourism industry stakeholders decry taxes, all inclusive Package

By Mamour M. Mbenga
The tourism industry stakeholders who operate bars, restaurants and
clubs have been sharing their concerns on the current 2015/2016 tourist
season which they said is yet to fully pick up as expected.As the previous tourist season was hardly hit by the Ebola disease
outbreak which has ravaged some neighbouring countries and scarred
potential visitors, the operators in the tourism industry have been
anticipating that since this epidemic is now over the Gambia would see
a surge in the number of tourist arrivals this year.
Mr. Babou Jammeh, a Gambian operator who is managing a chain of six
tourist spots in the Senegambia area, said this year’s tourist season
has started with better prospects than last year when the Ebola was
affecting some countries in the sub-region.
“I’m now the general manager of Club 1, Club 22, Stars Bar &
Restaurant, Samantha’s, Ali Baba Front and Ali Baba Garden and have
been working in the industry as a tourist guide,” he said.
He said one of the major challenges facing them in the industry today
is that the majority of visiting tourists do all their bookings with
the tour operators and which means paying everything to the hotels.
“This arrangement does not favour us the restaurant and bar owners as
the tourist gets everything in the hotel,” said Mr. Jammeh.
Another challenge, he said is the high taxes imposed on their
businesses.  “We pay taxes every quarter to the GRA (Gambia Revenue
Authority) and to the GT Board annually,” he added.
He, however, applauded the GT Board for the efforts it is making in
ensuring that some of the challenges they face are addressed to the
best interest of the stakeholders.
“I am only urging the GT Board to help lower the taxes as business
is very slow. A reduction in tax would attract more investors,”
appealed Mr. Jammeh.
Mr. Modou Bojang, another bar and restaurant manager in the Tourism
Development Area (TDA), reiterated the concerns raised by the previous
operator regarding the high taxes. He also confirmed that this year’s
tourist season is better than last year’s, citing the Ebola outbreak
as one of the reasons that affected the last season.
“Although, the period of the Christmas season was dull as most of the
tourists prefer to spend the time with their families at home, but it
is expected that they will be coming in bigger numbers before the
season officially ends in April,” he said optimistically.
He also lamented the all-inclusive bookings which, he said, means that
the tourist pay everything in advance to the hotels.
“This arrangement does not give operators outside the hotels any
business and should be addressed by the authorities if the other
stakeholders are to survive in their operations,” said Mr. Bojang.
He concluded by calling all the stakeholders to work as a collective
in addressing the challenges facing the tourism industry.