Gambia International Conference Center – The Way Forward
Author: Omar AJ Saho
January 2020 makes another day in the history of The Gambia. It is a day on which another robbin is cut off, and this time around it’s the USD$ 50 million China-funded Gambia International Conference Center. The development of the Gambia International Conference Center is appraised by manypro-environment citizens of The Gambia of posing a great environmental and ecological threats to this Bijilo Monkey Park in which the conference center is housed. The Bijilo Monkey Park is home to a wider number of bird species, colorful insects, green monkeys, patas monkeys, red colobus monkeys, butterflies, fire ants, rainbow & monitor lizard among other wonderful ecological species. Environmentalists of The Gambia both far and wide have raised their voices against the construction of the Gambia International Conference Center in the heart of an ecologically sensitive zone like Bijilo Monkey Park.
In response to the inauguration of the Gambia International Conference Center, we should now start promoting the meeting industry in the country with the right footing. The meeting industry otherwise called MICE Industry. MICE which stands for Meetings, Incentive, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) industry. Promoting the meeting industry in The Gambia will not only bring economic growth through hosting of professional gathering in the country, but it will also enable us not to entirely depend on seasonal tourism. In advancing the MICE industry in The Gambia, it can further help the country in having a more stable tourism industry which can help in bringing in investment opportunities into the country.
The way forward for the realization of the MICE industry in the Gambia can be greatly achieved by the presence of Gambia International Conference Center, back by the government developing a “MICE Industry Development Plan” for this infant industry in our country. The MICE Industry Development Plan can cover strategic policies such as 1) Promoting and raising the image of Gambia internationally for MICE industry enthusiasts, 2) Cultivating and certifying young professionals to run the industry, 3) Establish a robust Management team who can work with international meeting industry networks such as International Congress and Convention Association and other organizations, for them to promote and as well host events in The Gambia. 4) Establish a Research and Development Unit which shall be purposely responsible to study the trends of the meeting industry and provide policy recommendations. All of this cannot be achieved without the proper support of the Gambia government.
In so saying, the government can support the meeting industry by offering flexible immigration entry and smooth visa application process for MICE participants. It can also offer incentives and subsidies to event organizers, all of which will help boost the image of Gambia’s MICE Industry among its regional competitors. The MICE industry also relies on heavily human resources like any other sector of the tourism industry. People working in the MICE industry need to get the relevant professional and knowledge training, get the skills and expertise to work in various programs of the industry. In so adhering to those needs; the government through both the national and private institutions shall offer a training program for the Gambia International Conference Center and The Gambia’s meeting industry human resource need. University of The Gambia (UTG), Gambia Tourism & Hospitality Institute (GTHI), Institute of Travel & Tourism of The Gambia (ITTOG) can all assist in providing training and certification programs for MICE industry professionals.
On a final note, the government of The Gambia in partnership with Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, and Natural Resources (MECCNAR), Department of Parks & Wildlife Management (DPWM), National Environment Agency (NEA), and the Department of Forestry (DOF) should consider plan of relocating the monkey population of Bijilo Monkey Park to national parks across the country, which offer them a favorably habit condition. In conclusion, said government institute may also consider drafting a Green MICE Industry policy that shall ensure the conference center adhere to it’s carrying capacity. In addition, the policy should also put in place strategies for a proper waste management system, efficient energy, and water consumption system for the venue. The government through the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, and Natural Resources (MECCNAR) can also consider doing a carbon offsets program by supporting tree planting programs in the country, for the number of trees that are bulldozed during the construction of the Gambia International Conference Center.