From Bartil Harding's 1965 pioneering trip of 300 Swedes to 25,000 tourist arrivals in 1976, (originating from a few more European countries), the number of visitors continue to rise steadily until 1994/95 when the declining trend set in.
As a matter of reality, government should not only see tourism as a source for foreign exchange earnings but an industry that also offers limitless opportunities for employment. In The Gambia the management of this volatile industry (in theory) falls within the purview of The Gambia Tourism Board, while all the practical realities point to the contrary as outsider stakeholders are directing the affairs of this important industry.
Under a UDP administration, the tourism industry will be harnessed with the following specific goals and objectives;
· Increase the industry's contribution to the GDP from 12% to between 20%-25% in 5 years;
· Create employment opportunities (both direct and indirect) to 150,000 within 5 years;
· Increase the share of the local stakeholders from under 10% to 25% of the total revenue generated by the industry within 10 years, and exponentially thereafter;
· Limit the All-inclusive Policies and expand the out-of-pocket spending of the average tourist so as to support the local operators and the allied industries such as local crafts, tie-dye, ground operators, etc...
Achieving these goals and objectives will require the implementation of the following strategies, viz:
· Diversifying and strengthening our products, i.e.;
· Strengthening our traditional products such as sun-beach/winter tourism and cultural products;
· Develop our floral and avi-fauna potentials to enhance the ecological/scientific tourism component, such as bird watching;
· Develop our river cruising, sports fishing and catamaran tourism potential;
· Encourage the development of tourism infrastructures in the countryside such as tourist camps and/or "waikikis" in order to extend visitation up country.
· Promotion and Marketing, i.e.;
· Open tourism bureaux in continental Europe so as to market specific products in upscale niche markets in countries like Switzerland, Italy and Germany;
· Embark on a direct marketing campaigns in the United States so as to maximize our benefits from the opportunity that the advent of "Roots" opened for us as the true gateway for cultural tourist ("pilgrim") coming this to market.
The UDP will also have mechanisms in place to mitigate the negative impacts of tourism such as pedophilia and on the environment.