The fact that the country is a tourist destination and relies heavily on tourism for its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the government has over the years being stepping up efforts to transform the country’s tourism sector. Thus, the recent transformation of The Gambia Hotel School to a ‘Tourism and Hospitability Institute’.
Accordingly, the launching is a direct response to the shortage of qualified personnel in the country’s tourism industry, which is now the fastest-growing sector of the small west African state’s economy; and accounts for about 16 per cent of the GDP, according to government figures.
Tourism and Culture minister Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie says the move is in response to the shortage of skills in the tourism sector and in keeping abreast of ever-changing training needs of the industry.
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She said apart from offering professional training to new people entering the tourism and hospitality sector, the new institute will also be offering professional upgrading for existing employees to help them progress in their careers.
The aim of the institute is to produce graduates that will be more effective and efficient in their various vocations to which they will be called to duty in the near future, she said, adding that the institute might serve as an educational hub for both the country and the sub-region.
According to her, the transformation of the institute provides a convenient environment to kick-start new programmes in line with the country’s forward march to offer high levels of qualifications, so crucial to quality service delivery in the tourism and hospitality sector.
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In doing so, she said, the country will be able to attract more tourists and tourism businesses will flourish, thereby giving the country’s economy the opportunity to achieve the growth it deserves.
However, she noted, the complexity of tourism is such that this expectation and aspiration is the same as for most other countries, developed and developing.
“This leads us back to the peak of competitiveness,” she said. “Our competition cannot be easily assessed, it is not as straightforward as it might be in other sectors and can be volatile as well.
“This is why we need to be on our toes, to ensure that the services we offer are of genuine high quality and as competitive as any other destination that is considered good.”
Africa contributes almost nothing in global tourism
Whilst tourism remains an important source of income generation to many countries in Africa, the continent has still not made the best use of the sector. According to minister Jobe-Njie, Africa has a market share of only three percent in the global tourism industry.
“This could partly be attributed to poor training in the sector that does not match current market needs,” Hon. Mas Jobe-Njie said. “Today, the discerning tourists are spoilt for choice and will not entertain sloppiness of services.”
“It is therefore important that we understand and master the needs of the tourists that we are out to serve. This calls for the need to invest heavily in human resource development in order to have the requisite personnel that can deliver high quality services in tourism and hospitality,” she observed.