Tourisphere: MBOKA 2008 West African Travel Market, Banjul

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
In order to bring together tourism businesses from West Africa, European travel trade and the rest of the world, the Gambia Tourism Authority (GTA) has on Thursday, 17 July 2008 launched this year ‘MBOKA’ 2008 West African Travel Market at the Paradise Suits Hotel.

This travel market expo tagged ‘MBOKA’ 2008 scheduled to take place in 18th to 22nd October later this year in Banjul was presided over by the Secretary of State for Tourism and Culture, Madam Nancy Njie.

The West African Travel Market- MBOKA 2008 Banjul is an open platform where local businesses and communities, international tour operators, investors; NGOs; and government can meet to support a sustainable development of the tourism sector in West Africa. It will also be an opportunity for hoteliers, airliners, local tour operators; travel agents; bankers; resorts and destinations, among others to sell their products. So far it is established as a permanent initiative that offers an integrated set of instruments and actions such as an online market event, international marketing support and match making West African Travel Market business to business event.

MBOKA is a Wollof language that mean RELATIVE, it is a laudable partnership initiated by the National Organization for the Integration of Tourism in Senegal (ONITS) and Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET) Gambia to promote tourism for sustainable development. It is an annual West African Market expo. The hosting right is rotational between the two sister countries, Senegal and The Gambia. The maiden edition was hosted in Dakar, Senegal late last year.

According to the Secretary of State for Tourism and Culture, Madam Nancy Njie, West African Travel Market is the first of its kind in West  Africa Region. She added that the major highlight of the MBOKA 2008 travel fair is a B2B event that will bring together the major actors that involved in tourism and hospitality from West Africa and Europe.

The event will include product presentations, one to one business meetings, plenary sessions, familiarization trips and workshops on sustainable tourism. The other side of this unique travel market expo "include cultural displays, fashion show and taste of different West Africa food," she noted.

The strategic objective of this spectacular West African Travel Market is to support West African governments and tourism industry in order to develop tourism in a manner that will contribute to both local economic development and poverty alleviation, community empowerment and the protection of the environment. However, West African Travel Market supports the exchange of experiences and the strengthening of promotional skills and competences.

The Director General of the GTA, Mr Alieu Mboge said since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between ASSET and ONITS in Dakar, the objectives of the event has revolved around the promotion of small scale tourism enterprises of both the Senegal and the Gambia.

For sustainability of tourism, West African Travel Market will support the development of regional standards for sustainable tourism. It will also link with the existing standards and systems such as the international tour operators’ travelife standard and the standards of European ecolabels for sustainable tourism. African suppliers will be able to conduct a self-evaluation of their social and environmental performances by completing a sustainability checklist.

Mr Mboge emphasized on the importance of this event noting, "MBOKA 2008 is quite significant in many respects because it is an event which by all accounts will be a groundbreaking. As for the first time in the Gambia tourism calendar of events, a program of this magnitude with a complete focus on sustainable tourism will be hosted."

He continued that "internationally, the event has special significance as a mix of tourism flavors will be showcased to the delight of all visitors and participants from the Gambia, the neighboring countries of West Africa and Europe. Therefore it is expected that various players will interact at different levels, share experience and forge partnerships for the sustainable development of the tourism sector."

West Africa is a still unexplored region relatively close to Europe. It offers a great variety in people, culture and traditions with abundant beauty. So to diversify their economies, West African countries should increase focus on tourism development.
In order to increase concrete results, through this event European partners will provide active market support to sustainable African suppliers.

It is an open market for every stakeholders like European tour operators searching for new and sustainable tourism products; sustainable products looking for market access; hotels and destinations interested to become more sustainable; governments looking for exchange of experiences and success stories; promotional agencies searching for partnerships; development agencies identifying new approaches and promising initiatives plus private investors looking for opportunities and inspiration.

West African Travel Market have some reputable partners in their sleeves among are Gambia Tourism Authority-GTA; Eco-Benin; Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation; Association of Small Scale Tourism Enterprises-Gambia; National Organization for the Integration of Tourism in Senegal-ONITS; Tour Operators Federation of Ghana (TOUGHA); Sierra Leone Tourist Board; Cameroon Ministry of Tourism among others. While their West African products are promoted to the European markets in partnership with the leading tourism marketing initiatives which include Reisepavillion, the German Travel Fair for Sustainable Tourism; the Federation of Tour Operators; Travelife Market and so on.

For more information and how to register for the MBOKA 2008 West African Travel Market in the Gambia visit their website at

Author: by Yunus S. Saliu