Gambia’s Tourism Minister Hamat Bah has warned western tourists, who are planning to travel to the impoverished West African nation during the winter season in search of sex tourism to stay away from the country. “We are not a sex destination. If you want a sex destination, you go to Thailand. The Gambia is not a sex destination. We are not and please every Gambian must sing that song. We cannot afford to see this country to really be brought to that level. We must protect and preserve this country,” Hamat Bah told Kerr Fatou, a show aired every Thursday on state media GRTS. The Gambia is not a sex destination and it will never be, Mr. Bah maintained. Bah warns that any tourist caught messing with Gambian minors will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Hamat Bah is the leader of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP). His political party was among the political parties, which backed president Adama Barrow in the past elections, which saw Gambia’s onetime strongman and dictator Yahya Jammeh, exiting out from the presidency after a humiliating opposition defeat.
Mr. Bah has raised number of issues during his Kerr Fatou appearance. Among them includes: re-branding Gambia’s tourism sector; ending child sex tourism; ending the bumbster menace; promoting Gambian culture; liberalizing the sector; the economy among others.
A Freedom Newspaper internet search revealed that the Gambia has a Consulate in Bangkok, Thailand. Mr. Somkuan Boonyamanond has been listed as Gambia’s Consul General in Bangko.
Mr. Bah’s statement has far reaching diplomatic ramifications. Branding nations as sex tourism hub is not a good marketing strategy. Bah should keep in mind that there are Gambian students and migrants in Thailand.
Mr. Bah doubled down on his recent statement that beach boys known as bumbsters will not be tolerated along the sandy beaches this tourist season. He accuses bumbsters of using underaged girls for sex tourism. For example, Bah said some of the bumbsters often offer tourists massage services along the beach in a covered pavilion, where some of the underaged girls are usually exposed to sexual exploitation. He warns that such immoral behavior must stopped.
Mr. Bah said girls under the age of eighteen will not be allowed to enter guest rooms adding that there is a law prohibiting minors from loitering around the TDA area.
Bah also said his Ministry will work towards addressing the problem of profiling, as many Gambians have complained about being routinely profiled by the security personnel stationed at the Tourism Development Area.
“It’s been worked out. I am very saddened about that. It’s been worked out. I think you understand where we came from; people who have never been trained were brought to the TDA. Let me tell you… We are aware of these things. When you talk about these things; it really makes me sick. We are very responsible. But we cannot overcome all these challenges overnight,” Bah told one of the Kerr Fatou hosts, who complained that she was profiled at the TDA area.
“We will not compromise security in the tourism industry. One incident will kill the industry. We are aware of the complains and the problems that are happening and we are addressing them,” he added.
Hamat Bah also said government is investing in attracting investors in the tourism industry. He said his Ministry is embarking on a massive campaign to attract tourists into the country.
“Today, Thomas Cook got their own brand hotels. They are working on having one in the Gambia. They are even looking for a Gambian to partner with them. I meet with them. I am just telling you. And FTI, today is in the Gambia. They gonna build two new hotels; one of 500 rooms; the other one 350 rooms; you talking about 1,000 something guests, which they have to fill by force; whether they like it or not; they need to put guests there,” he said, adding that FTI is now managing the Kairaba Beach hotel.
Mr. Bah said the new government has come up with a policy that prohibits investors from constructing three-star hotels along the TDA area. He adds that the TDA is strictly reserved for investors, who are interested in constructing five-star hotels. He said his Ministry is now encouraging folks interested in the tourism sector to construct three-star hotels in rural Gambia.
Mr. Bah also raised the issue of his Ministry encouraging Gambians in diaspora interested in vacationing to book for hotels at a cheaper price around May, when the season is less busy. He said the matter is being discussed for consideration at his Ministry.
Mr. Bah also said the new Barrow government has terminated all contracts the previous government of Yahya Jammeh had signed with PR companies— tasked to market Gambia’s tourism industry overseas. He said Gambians will now be responsible for tourism marketing and not any foreign entity.
“We have stopped all contracts with PR companies. About twenty thousand pounds have been spent per month on PR by the former government. Gambians will not do the job. PR companies worked in three stages. One, you hire them for nothing; two, they just write notes; and three, organized meetings; and scout for tourists. Now as I speak, all contracts have been terminated,” Bah remarked.
Mr. Bah also talked about The Gambia government reaching a foreign labor deal with the Saudi government. He said the Saudis have committed five billion dollars in tapping into the skills of Gambian professionals from various fields of discipline. “We will be exporting Gambian experts to Saudi for labor purposes,” he said.
Disapora Asking For Fat Salaries
Mr. Bah said some Gambians living in diaspora were recently availed with job opportunities by the president Adama Barrow, but the people contacted turned down the jobs offered to them because they said the salary was too small. He said The Gambia is recovering from a twenty-two years economic mess and therefore cannot afford to pay exorbitant salaries to diasporans asking fat salaries. He said the Barrow government inherited about one-month import cover when they took over from Jammeh. Now, he said, they are working aggressively to fix the mess Jammeh left behind. He reported that so far, the Gambia has recorded six months import cover within this short period of time the new government assumed office.
Mr. Bah also disclosed that President Barrow will soon effect major changes in his government. He said the upcoming changes will touch on different Ministries including the Civil Service. This followed, a statement made by one of the hosts that the new government needs a fiery General, who can make things happen in the administration.