The vice president and secretary of state for Women’s Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie Saidy, on Saturday, declared Mboka 2008 open on behalf of His Excellency, Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, at the Paradise Suites Hotel.
Mboka 2008 is a West African Travel Market organized by the Gambia Tourism Authority (GTA). It is a partnership initiated by the National Organization for the Indigenization of Tourism-Senegal and Association of Small Scale Enterprise and Tourism-Gambia to promote tourism for sustainable development.
The African Travel Market is an open platform where local business and communities, international tour operators, investors, NGOs, and governments will meet to support a sustainable development of the tourism sector in West Africa.
Delivering her speech, Her Excellency, Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy said Mboka 2008 is meant to promote both north-south and south-south dialogue and business in a very vital sector which is increasingly becoming indispensable to the economies of our sub-region.
She noted that "there is no gainsaying the fact that tourism is fast becoming a leading foreign exchange earner for our region as international tourism numbers continue to grow".
Since African countries in their attempts to propel their economies and reduce poverty are focusing on the service sector to complement their commodity and resource based economies, Dr Njie-Saidy- revealed that "tourism therefore becomes a very strategic economic sector in the economies of most African states." According to her, various WTO studies have highlighted the potentials of the tourism sector and the urgency of adopting effective marketing strategies for sustainable tourism products.
She added that the "West African region accounts for approximately 10% of international tourist arrivals in Africa, with Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana being the most important destinations within our regional group. In Ghana, tourism accounts for 17% of total foreign exchange earnings (1999 fig) whilst in the Gambia tourism contributes 16% of the country’s GDP."
Mrs Nancy S Njie, secretary of state for Tourism and Culture welcomed the various stakeholders. She emphasized the need for regular meetings of this kind.
Mr Alieu Mboge, director general of the Gambia Tourism Authority congratulated the participants and hailed them for their contributions to national development.
According to the GTA director general, more than 16,000 Gambians are gainfully employed in the tourism sector either directly or indirectly.
He added that annually over 150,000 tourist visit the country to experience the best of Africa and share the joy and hospitality of The Gambia. According to him, these tourists are attracted to the Smiling Coast "thanks to the abundantly attractive nature of the country and more importantly the socio-economic environment created by our dynamic leader, President Yahya Jammeh."
According to Mr Alieu Badou Bobb, ASSET-Gambia president, "Mboka 2008 is a great stride in the efforts of the government of The Gambia and all tourism stakeholders".
Mr Doudou Gnagna Diop, president of ONITS, Senegal, in his speech said that "the fundamental identity of our countries should not be seen just as a luxury reserved for the minority but rather as a source of activity. This generates sustainable richness and employment because the good Lord has served us well in potentialities through our biodiversities, our natural and cultural landscapes."