Gambia explores new tourism frontiers, targeting Portuguese market at BTL Lisboa

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In a bid to broaden its tourism horizons, Gambia is actively targeting the Portuguese market, aiming to unlock new opportunities for growth and cultural exchange. This strategic initiative comes against the backdrop of rising interest in Gambia’s diverse attractions beyond its ‘smiling coast’ reputation. In an interview with VoyagesAfriq at this year’s BTL – Lisboa the Director-General of the Gambian Tourism Board Abubacarr Camara, reiterated the significant potential of the Portuguese market, which is currently constrained largely due to air connectivity.

“Regarding the Portuguese market, it is performing very well. If I were to compare it with Spain, the only thing holding back the Portuguese market is the lack of direct flights. Although we have Tap Portugal, we wish to have more flights and frequencies available. Once this is addressed, Gambia will become an attractive destination for Portuguese tourists.” He remarked.

The Director General also disclosed there are plans underway for Ethiopian Airlines to begin operations in Gambia. “There have been a lot of discussions and it’s almost at the tail end. And surely very soon you will see Ethiopian flying to Gambia.”

Adding on, Camara reiterated the great potential and diversified nature of Gambian tourism. This ranges from birdwatching to encounters with hippos and dolphins. Gambia is also deeply rooted in cultural experiences and has a rich history across its various regions. Additionally, there are community-based initiatives that provide real-world interactions and insights on customs and living in the area.

Director-General of the Gambia Tourism Board Abubacarr Camara

“In Gambia, we have a lot of potential. We are betting on showcasing the various attractions, from diverse bird species to other animals like hippos and dolphins. These dolphins, typically harmless, can be spotted in the River Gambia, which flows through different regions of the country, each offering unique attractions. In the West Coast region, you’ll find a blend of nature and culture. As you travel up to the Lower River region, you’ll encounter Mandinka settlements and plenty of natural beauty, including the Kiang National Park. Furthermore, there are numerous cultural activities to immerse yourself in. In the Central River region, you’ll discover a lot of history “he explained.

Also high on the agenda, the Director General said, was the promotion of community-based tourism. “In the communities we are promoting nature-based tourism and ecotourism in all those regions and even bird watching is very popular in Gambia we have over 570 species of birds” he added.

The West African country’s presence at the 2024 BTL-Lisboa is bold step to strengthen its tourism sector by strategically leveraging on its international markets. Camara intimated that an increasing interest in Gambian tourism from Portugal led to the decision to give priority to BTL.

He maintained, “We are doing our best. This is the second time we are attending BTL. We have mostly concentrated on WTM, ITB, and FITUR but we are also focused on BTL because of the interest in Portugal. As a result, we decided to take on competitors who consider themselves to be market leaders, particularly Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau. But when one looks at it from the standpoint of West Africa, it’s clear that The Gambia has a big place.”

Article by Jenice Aidoo and edited by Samuel Obeng Appah

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