Nearly half of Gambia’s tourists ‘come via Thomas Cook’

The Gambia is grappling with how to deal with the collapse of Thomas Cook, the UK tour operator responsible for about 40% of its tourists, the country’s tourism minister has told the BBC.

Tourism Minister Hamat Bah said he was looking at ways of bringing in tourists directly, without relying on tour operators. (Picture by World Trade Organisation: WTO/Jay Louvion)
Tourism Minister Hamat Bah said he was looking at ways of bringing in tourists directly, without relying on tour operators. (Picture by World Trade Organisation: WTO/Jay Louvion)

It was the parent company of Thomas Cook that collapsed on Monday because of a huge $2.1bn (£1.6bn) debt pile – its Indian, Chinese, German and Nordic subsidiaries will continue to trade as normal.

Tourism Minister Hamat Bah said the small West African nation received many of its visitors both via the UK arm of Thomas Cook and its European subsidiaries.

“Between 30 to 40% of our tourists were being lifted into the country by Thomas Cook Group. The impact it is going to have on our economies, particularly The Gambia, would be a very negative one. No doubt about that,” Mr Bah told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

“[The response] is to see how best we can bring those tourists who want to come to The Gambia without Thomas Cook being in place,” Mr Bah told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme, Officials were working on options, including bringing tourists directly without relying on tour operators, he said.

The Gambia is a popular destination because of its beaches and bird life. Tourism is its second highest earner of foreign revenue and contributes more than 30% of GDP. The government is also looking at how it can lure more airlines to introduce routes to the country.

“We are working on getting as many airlines to come to the Gambia as possible and also to look for other airlines that may not be as expensive,” said Mr Bah. BBC News