The Managing Director of FTI GROUP, Dietmar Gunz, acknowledged the difficult decision he has to make in shutting down the activities of Europe’s fourth largest tour operator in The Gambia. He said the tour operator company has no choice but to bring the curtain down on its holiday offers in the country due to the devastating impact of the Coronavirus crisis.
“We know that is a very painful experience for the Gambian people but COVID-19 made it impossible to keep all the structures alive and plan something in the near future,” FTI’s Dietmar Gunz told this medium in an exclusive interview.
Last week, the Kairaba Beach Hotel boss, Heidi Ben Aissa, who also doubles as the FTI representative, made the announcement. The surprise move has left the entire sector under shock as people are still keeping their fingers crossed in the hope of a salutary alternative.
Asked whether Gambian authorities were kept in the loop when FTI was about to shut down, Dietmar Gunz responded in the affirmative.
He blamed tourism authorities for failing to take the necessary steps in order to prevent the sad turn of events, adding that the decision to shut down their activities was not the only option on the table.
He then added: “But there was no action from the Ministry of Tourism which could have opened the door to other options.”
Travel and tourism play a crucial role in the economy of the tiny West African country. The sector’s contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 30%.
Meeting Point International (MP), a FTI-GROUP subsidiary, and which also serves as its own destination management company, was making wave in The Gambia.
MP has more than 40 locations scattered in 20 countries, including The Gambia – Kairaba Beach Hotel, Labranda Coral Beach Resort etc.
Gunz confided to this reporter that the lease for the hotels operated by Meeting Point International came to an end and there was no alternative for any renewal options.
Weighing in on a post-COVID life, the FTI Managing Director said all doors are not closed.
“If the circumstances allow, we will certainly consider investing in The Gambia again,” he remarked.
Written by Abdoulie John