- Mr. Praveen Chaugh
- Tour Operators
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Tour operators are confident that the Gambia’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth will not have a major impact on holidays there.
The West African country has grown in popularity as a winter sun destination during recent years, and around 50,000 Britons now visit annually, enticed by sandy beaches and good-value accommodation.
But recent disagreements between the Gambia and Britain over human rights; protests in the capital, Banjul; the increasingly bizarre and discriminatory rhetoric of Yahya Jammeh, the country’s president; and now today’s decision to leave the Commonwealth, have raised fears that the country could soon be off-limits.
Jenny Adams of Serenity Holidays, which has been selling packages to the Gambia for 25 years, said she did not anticipate any problems, and added that the attitude of Gambian people towards British visitors is overwhelmingly positive.
“A large proportion of our clients are repeat visitors keen to return because of the warm welcome they always receive,” she said. “While many visitors will spend most of their holiday on the sun lounger, we do offer an extensive range of excursions in conjunction with nearby communities that are popular with both Britons and locals.”
A spokesman for ABTA, the travel association, added: “Tens of thousands of UK holidaymakers travel to the Gambia each year and it is particularly popular as a winter sun destination. The Gambian people are extremely hospitable and we would not expect UK holidaymakers’ travel plans to be affected by the decision to leave the Commonwealth.”
One issue that may affect Britons is the cost of entry to the country. Currently Britons with a valid passport do not require a visa to visit the Gambia. Whether this visa waiver scheme will be retained remains to be seen. A visa for neighbouring Senegal, for example, costs £42 per person.
The Foreign Office warns of “an increase in political tension which may lead to unannounced demonstrations in Banjul and other parts of the country.”
“Most visits to The Gambia are trouble-free although independent travellers are at increased risk due to the lack of local support in an emergency,” it adds. “If you’re travelling independently, make sure next of kin in the UK have details of your itinerary and keep in regular touch.”
It also warns that “some foreign nationals have been detained by the police in relation to homosexuality and there has been an increase in inflammatory homophobic rhetoric across the country.” Last month, speaking at the UN, Yahya Jammeh declared that homosexuals were "very evil" and posed the greatest single threat to human existence.
Another issue which deters some visitors to Gambia is that of “bumsters”, local men who offer their services as a tour guide or companion – sometimes persistently – to foreign tourists.
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