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ICRT THE GAMBIA RESPONSIBLE TOURISM MANAGEMENT TRAINING
ACHIEVING RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IN DESTINATION GAMBIA
( By Baboucar M. Gaye, course participant )
The two previous courses have been described as “intensive.” Of the third course, I would say it was too intensive. Such that it has taken me time to recover enough to report on it. And, having attended all three courses, I think I am qualified to make this assessment. To me, this being the last module, at the end of it all, it seemed there were two endings: the end of the third course, and the end of the series.
For the first course there was only one international student (from Canada ) out of twelve. This number increased to two for the second course. But with the third course there was a whooping eight from almost as many nations. Added to the sixteen “locals” there was a record attendance of twenty four.
The first course introduced the concept of Responsible Tourism and its ramifications. The second course focused on pro-poor tourism. The third course crowned it all by looking into how Responsible Tourism can be achieved in The Gambia. Thus, to put things in perspective, especially for the visiting students, even before the formal opening of the course, participants went on an excursion to various tourism sites: Katckikally Crocodile Pool, The Gambia is Good farm (which is seeking to introduce Agric/Crop Tours), Craft Markets, Sifoe Bee Farm and Sandale hotel project in Kartong.
The first task of the course, when it formally opened on 25, December, was to review the excursions with a view to looking at ways in which change can be achieved. Very high marks went to the GIG farm, which was described as a “very good” project. Sifoe Bee Farm was said to be “fantastic”. Sandale was not only also “fantastic” but “excellent”. The craft markets, though, did not fare as well. Bakau craft market was said to be “selling a lot of the same things.” Senegambia craft market was “dark” and Kotu had “unattended stalls.” But participants did not only criticize. Useful and practicable suggestions were made on how to improve things. It was recommended that stall owners be involved in the design and building of markets. Uniform pricing was also recommended.
The Course had the opportunity to hear an in-bound tour operator representative and discussed The Gambia as a destination to see how things can be bettered through the principles of responsible tourism.
It was noted 75% of tourists wish there were more things to do. A staggering 94% had a real hunger for village experience, with 58% wanting to do an overnight village visit. Cultural shows were of interest to 84%, while 63% chose Agric/Crop tours. In line with these findings, the course concluded that too little a variety of excursions were being sold. Hence the need to sell more and varied excursions- through country projects, if necessary.
The Course then split into groups to identify different tasks on how tourism in The Gambia can be made more responsible. The issues tackled: Economic, Social, Environmental, Marketing (to change the type of tourists that come here?). The conclusion was that it is important, for the preservation of the Tourism Industry (in The Gambia), to reduce the negative impacts of all the different activities on all the different stakeholders, which will also affect people's livelihood.
Product Development was also looked at and new ideas recommended for better use of post cards, gifts items, T shirts and, in terms of culture, traditional Gambian wrestling. As in the second course, the coconut was identified as a suitable under utilized product from the husk to the water.
The final, and major, activity of the course also took the form of group work, involving strategic planning for change. Six groups were formed, each assigned to do a comprehensive study and SWOT analysis of a tourism product or issue. These were:
This final exercise was billed as a competition to be judged by a panel chaired by the Secretary of State for Tourism and Culture of The Gambia. In the event, but not entirely because of this, after two days of extremely hard work, almost all group members had a sleepless night writing their reports for presentation on the 1, December, the final day of the course.
The Secretary of State for Tourism was eventually unable to attend the judging session. All the same there was a panel of eminent judges including the Director General of Tourism, the President of The Gambia Hotel Association and the Vice Chancellor of the University of The Gambia , who chaired the panel.
The presentations were taken very seriously even though we were told beforehand that the prize for the best presentation would be a photo opportunity with the judges. As the presenter of my group, I was literally shaking not because the chief judge had said any presenter that was not nervous was unlikely to win, but because I was indeed nervous.
In the end, it was group three (Presenter: Lucy Hamilton) that won with their presentation on Host/Guest Interaction. Space does not permit me to do justice here to all the presentations but I am sure you will find them on the ASSET website sometime somewhere. Just search.
I must say that the real winners are Dr. Harold Goodwin, the Course Tutor, ably assisted by Adama Bah, RTP- The Gambia and ASSET for having expertly and successfully organized it, especially Harold who handled all the classes deftly, on time, and without much noise or fuss.
Finally, praise is also due to the international students for sponsoring their Gambian counterparts. Similar praise goes to the proprietor and staff of Safari Garden Hotel for hosting the course so expertly.
PRESENTATIONS DURING THE COURSE ARE HIGHLIGHTED BELOW. CLICK ANY TOPIC TO READ. YOU MUST HAVE POWER POINT INSTALLED IN YOUR SYSTEM TO ACCESS DOCUMENT.
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