Youths engaged in promoting community-based tourism and related activities in Janjanbureh and the Central River Region have expressed disappointment about the “lack of support from The Gambia Tourism Board (GT Board).”
They say for more than two years, the GT Board refused to approve applications for licenses by local tour guides in the area, who have already received tour-guide training from partners.
They spoke to The Alkamba Times (TAT) on Tuesday in Janjanbureh, where they also called on the GT Board to have a regulation for tour operators and ground handlers to work with local tour guides whenever in Janjanbureh.
“It has been two years since more than 30 youths trained in tour guiding, but who cannot get their license from the tourism office, making life difficult for them,” one Jalamang Danso told TAT.
He added: “It’s been over two years since youths of Janjanbureh put in their applications to be licensed official tourist guides, but they are yet to receive any feedback from the GTBoard.”
According to Danso, partners such as YEP (the Youth Empowerment Project) provided the tour guides with training, and more than 30 youths in Janjanbureh benefitted. It was meant to help minimize the rural-urban drift by creating employment opportunities for them.
He thanked the YEP project for its support in providing training and resources to the Janjanbureh Information Center, which hosts the activities and operations of the local tour guides.
Danso expressed frustration over the reluctance of tour operators and ground-handlers who do not use their services anytime they visit Janjanbureh, adding that only My Gambia and Bush Wakers are offering them the much-needed jobs.
He also claimed that most tour operators coming to Janjanbureh come with guides who “have little or no understanding of the settlement and its history, yet they prefer to stick with them.”
“This is unfair to us as local tourist guides. Therefore, we are calling on the GT Board to make regulations that compel tour operators and ground-handlers to work with the Janjanbureh Information Center in providing tour services for them.” However, Danso also revealed that YEP funding for the Information Center has stopped.
“Without YEP, we would not have reached this far, and now that their project with us has phased out, we are finding it difficult to make payments of salaries and other payments. So we are appealing to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and its line departments to come on board and fill the vacuum left behind by YEP.”
Musa Danso, the proprietor of Cheers Musa’s Riverside Garden Motel, told TAT that start-up tourism businesses in Janjanbureh have not benefited much from the government or GT Board and that most of them have collapsed due to the Covid-19 restrictions, which left them bankrupt.
The motel offers accommodation services, food and beverages, river cruising, and safari to customers visiting the facility.
Danso says more than six youths usually work at Cheers Musa’s Riverside Garden Motel. Still, most of them are out of work due to a lack of business and revenue to maintain them.
“I think it is now time for the national Tourism authorities to support the start-up tourism ventures in Janjanbureh, who were sidelined during the disbursement of relief support to the industry.
“To be honest, if the start-up businesses are not given support, they will all fade away sooner or later, leading to the unemployment of the youths who make their living from these start-ups.”