The ripple effects of the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with ongoing Russia- Ukraine tension, are affecting local business owners in the Gambia’s tourism development areas.
Amadou Jawo sews clothes and later sells them to tourists and locals to put food on the table for himself and his family daily.
“Before, the business was perfect, and we were mostly paid in foreign currencies like the Dollar and Euros. But currently, the business is very dull since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he disclosed to this medium.
Amadou has been in the sewing business for nearly two decades. According to Mr. Jawo, tourist arrivals were mainly from Sweden and other Scandinavian countries in the past years.
However, he revealed that most tourists coming into the country now are mainly from Poland. He emphasizes that most of these tourists need help to speak English. He added that this barrier in communication makes business difficult for them.
“If you are selling something to them, you must write the price of your product on a piece of paper,” he stated.
Amadou sews different items ranging from dresses, shirts, and bags of various types. He disclosed that he usually goes to Serrekunda to buy fabrics to sew his product.
He also added that sometimes he gets some of his products from Senegal. “sometimes we buy our products in installments, and with that, if you are not financially strong, you find it very challenging,” he disclosed.
Amadou described this year’s business as poor compared to the previous years noting that you need financial support to avoid becoming very difficult.
‘Some days, you can sit for two to three days without selling a single product, “Amadou laments.
His responsibilities worsen Amadou’s story as a breadwinner.
“Being the sole provider of the family is very worrying. If you are to sell thousand Dalasis if you go home, you have responsibilities to settle, even to save some money become a problem, because you have to put aside money for the shop and some for-fish money,” Jawo narrates.
Decades ago, the Gambia’s tourism industry was tagged as the second-highest foreign exchange earner of the Gambia after Agriculture.
However, the recent plights of local business operators like Amadou Jawo indicate that this is no more the case.
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 imprisoned billions of people globally, as travel restrictions became the new order of the day. Moreover, after two years, the world saw fresh tensions between Russia and Ukraine, a fight described by the Russian leader Putin as a special military operation.
However, amidst all these crises, some Gambians believe the country’s tourism minister Hamat Bah also failed the industry when it comes to preserving the future of the industry that employs thousands of youths.