In this Jan. 17, 2017, file photo, tourists lay on the beach in Gambia’s capital Banjul. InternationalIndiaAfricaBefore the pandemic, tourism was a crucial driver of growth in the small West African nation making up around 20 percent of GDP and attracting more than 100,000 visitors annually. The sector is now rebounding to pre-pandemic highs.A surge in revenues from tourism is contributing to Gambia’s economic recovery by boosting foreign-exchange reserves and helping to offset the costs of fuel and food imports, the media has reported, citing the country’s central bank governor.According to Buah Saidy, the number of people visiting Gambia rose by 56 percent to 182,795 in 2022, helping to increase the country’s foreign-exchange reserves to $464Mln this year.
"During the fourth quarter onwards, the inflow of foreign currency was enhanced significantly," Saidy told reporters, adding: "There was a large recovery in tourism and remittance inflows were also sustained."
It was also noted that the increase in tourism revenues is crucial when paying for imports, which have recently surged approximately 90-fold to $53Mln because of the global increase in costs of fuel and cereals associated with the conflict in Ukraine. Gambia, surrounded on three sides by Senegal, with the fourth side being a narrow Atlantic coast, is well-known for its diverse ecosystems around the Gambia River and abundant wildlife that attracts many tourists. Visitors mainly come from European countries such as Germany, Norway, Sweden, although the majority of tourists traditionally hail from the UK. Gambia’s tourism sector is one of the highest earners of foreign revenue, a major contributor to GDP and employment. Therefore, it is considered by the government as a key factor of the country’s economic recovery. The restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic severely hit the country’s tourism industry. According the Gambian Tourism Board, the sector lost $108Mln in 2020 and a further $57.9Mln of tax revenue after the closure of businesses and hotels. As the country tries to boost its tourism sector, the World Bank is providing assistance with a $68Mln program to support the diversification and climate resilience of the industry, in particular focusing on strengthening and upgrading tourism infrastructure.