The Gambia government, through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, on Friday launched Gambia Tourism and Hospitability Institute, which is a transformation of the former Gambia Hotel School.
The launching of the tourism institute is in response to shortage of qualified personnel in the country’s tourism industry, which is now the fastest-growing sector of the economy and accounts for some 16 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), according to government figures.
| Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie|
Tourism Minister of The Gambia
Speaking on the occasion, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie, said the transformation of the former Hotel School into what is now the Gambia Tourism and Hospitability Institute is in response to the skills challenge in the tourism sector and in keeping abreast of ever-changing training needs of the industry.
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 career.
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.
The tourism minister calls on all and sundry to put hands on deck in reaching out in order to make the new institute the Centre of Excellence in tourism and hospitality not only for The Gambia but also for the sub-region.
“The Ministry of Tourism and Culture cannot do it all by itself,” the tourism minister said, adding that everyone has a share of the responsibility to make the new institute second to none.
According to her, the transformation of the institute provides a congenial 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.
In doing so, she said, the country will be able to attract more tourists and tourism businesses will flourish, thereby the country’s economy will achieve the growth that 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
Africa has a market share of only three percent in the global tourism industry, the Gambia tourism minister also said.
“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.”
She continued: “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.”