Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - Political turbulence in some parts of West Africa impacted negatively not only in tourism promotion and development, but also in the socio-economic advancement of West Africans, the Gambian Minister of Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, said here Saturday at the opening of the maiden ECOWAS tourism ministers' summit.
She said “Without peace and tranquility, the development of sub-regional tourism will only remain a dream for our countries no matter how unique and interesting our products can be; no matter how qualitative our services are; and no matter how aggressive our marketing activities are."
She added that it was incumbent upon member states to strive hard to maintain peace in the sub region, saying that tourism as an industry had undergone tremendous transformation in the recent past, thanks to the changing dynamics at the global level, which necessitated the adoption of certain reforms at both global and national levels in order to meet the challenges and stay competitive.
But, she said "all these measures come against the backdrop of global economic turbulence, exacerbated by political upheavals in some parts of the world such as in the Middle East, North Africa and in the Sahel region.
According to her, at the level of ECOWAS some very pragmatic and robust programmes and projects have been ongoing and are underpinned by a consistent consultative process involving all member states towards boosting tourism in the region.
She pointed out that the measures had touched on some key critical areas -- ranging from the review of classification standards for hotels, motels and inns; opening of ECOWAS information desks in airports; training programmes, the design and harmonization of boarding and landing passes, and the ECOWAS single visa.
She indicated that successes in the areas would help place ECOWAS on a firm pedestal in the global tourism market.
Also speaking at the forum, the Gambian Minister of basic and secondary education, Fatou Lamin Faye, said tourism was a major economic pillar of the Gambian economy which had also assumed greatersignificance in the socio-economic development of the country.
"This achievement," she said "is due to the effective tourism policies that have been formulated over the years as well as the mix of unique attractions and facilities that complement the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Gambian people.
Faye boasted that the Gambia attracted tourists from diverse places around the world and remained one of the most competitive destinations in African.
However, she said it should be borne in mind that modern-day tourism thrives on the beauty, splendour, variety and diversity of all that a region offers the discerning tourist, including cultural heritage, hospitality, natural scenery such as the flora and fauna as well as iconic facilities.
She said the West African sub-region was well endowed with diverse natural and cultural attractions that could render "our community a tourist haven in Africa".
The one-day meeting is expected to come out with a recommendation for a set standard for tourism industries in the ECOWAS region.
-0- PANA MSS/VAO 23June2012