Nancy Njie, the secretary of state for Tourism and Culture, yesterday presided over the official launching of the Gambia Tourism Authority (GTA) "Mboka" 2008 at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.
"Mboka" 2008, supported financially by Pro Invest, a European programme to promote business linkages and investment in ACP countries, is scheduled to take place in The Gambia between 18-22 October. It is an international event that will create an open platform for local tourism entrepreneurs, communities as well as international tour operators to discuss some key issues crucial to sustainable tourism development. It is also meant to showcase their product and ideas, and forge partnerships with a view to promote responsible tourism in the sub-region.
In her statement, SoS Njie revealed that this travel market is the first of its kind in the African region adding that it is an initiative to facilitate co-operation between tourism businesses from West Africa and the European Travel Trade. "It will be established as a permanent initiative offering an integrated set of instrument and actions such as online market events, international marketing support and an annual West African Travel Market Business-to-Business event”, she said.
SoS Njie further revealed that the major highlight of the week’s travel fair is B2B, an event that will bring together major actors involved in tourism and hospitality from West African and European countries, adding that their main European partner, who provides technical support on sustainable tourism development standard, is the European Centre. She added that the strategic objective of this laudable initiative is to support West African government and tourism industries in particular to develop tourism in a manner that will contribute to both local economic development, poverty alleviation, community empowerment and the protection of the environment.
Alieu Mboge, director general of The Gambia Tourism Authority (GTA), said that the first edition of ‘Mboka’ was held in Senegal in 2007, following the signing of the MoU between the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET) and the National Organisation for Integration of Tourism in Senegal (ONITS) in Dakar.
According to him, since the decision was made to host the event in The Gambia, "a lot of ground work has been undertaken to extend the scope, and the profile of the event”.
The occasion is quite significant in many respects, as it will kick-start preparations for an event which by all accounts is groundbreaking. “For the first time in our tourism calendar of events, a programme of this magnitude with a complete focus on sustainable tourist development will be hosted in our dear country," he said.
Other speakers at the occasion included Alieu Secka, chairman of The Gambia Hotel Association. The ceremony was chaired by Adama Bah of ASSET, who also delivered the vote of thanks.