The Gambia's new Tourism Brand Logo was on Thursday afternoon launched by the President, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh at a ceremony held at State House.
The Brand Logo, which aims to among others help to promote, implement strategies and raise the recognition threshold of The Gambia within the sub-region and the world at large was designed by a Nigerian firm called Insight Communication Ltd.
In his launching remarks, Professor Jammeh underscored the importance of promoting tourism in The Gambia, which he said, was long overdue.
He added that the hotel industry is very dynamic and hoteliers must come together and work for its sustainability.
President Jammeh asserted that previously, most people from the outside world did not know about The Gambia and he had to intervene and advised the GTA to create a central web site where access to general information on how to travel to The Gambia can be obtained.
He however pointed out that it is not only the hotel owners or the Gambia Tourism Authority who should promote tourism but it is equally the responsibility of every Gambian to contribute in improving this important sector. He added that people should take advantage of the River Gambia, the country's rich flora and fauna and the more than 200 islands which can be explored or ventured into by tourists.
The Gambian leader highlighted that there are many facilities in the country but people are not taking the opportunity or making good use of them. "How are we going to make use of all year round tourism when we don't want to make good use of our islands", President Jammeh questioned.
He called on the hotel owners to diversify and make their products more attractive because it is not interesting for a tourist to come each year and to find the same products and cultural entertainment. "Lets us make tourism more interesting, lets every hotel create something new that somebody has to discover so he/she can come back", he noted.
He stressed that the peace and tranquility of this country will not be compromised, noting that "without peace, there will be no tourist" adding that the 'bumpster' menace will also not be spared.
President Jammeh urged hotel owners to provide quality service, invest in their hotels and train their staff so as to improve the standard of service, since tourism involves human activity and can enhance peace, and unity. He challenged everyone to tighten our belts and be ready to work hard to improve the sector.
The Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, Yusupha Kah said tourism is a key sector and this logo indicates that The Gambia needs to diversify. He also urged all stakeholders in the tourism sector to work together so as to achieve Vision 2020.
In her turn, the Vice President and Minister of Women's Affairs, Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy called for aggressive marketing, adding that despite the fact that some progress has been made, there is still room for improvement. She described the tourism sector as one of the most versatile industries and competitive sectors and that is why they have to be more innovative.
She finally implored them to look for ways of attracting more African tourists because they are usually high spenders. Dr. Njie-Saidy also said the tourism sector has the capacity and the potentials so they have to think big and plan for the future.
The Minister of Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie said during the last ministerial retreat, a Tourism Development Master Plan and the institutional review of the Gambia Tourism Authority and the way forward developed. She stated that they discussed the strength and weaknesses of the Gambia tourism industry and Insight Communication Ltd. was invited to make a presentation on marketing The Gambia as a tourist destination and rebranding was one of the strategies to reposition The Gambia as an attractive destination using the images that are uniquely and typically Gambian in nature.
She continued that this is supported by promotional publicity campaign both regionally and internationally. Fatou Mass Jobe Njie said the World Bank is also supporting them and an MOU has been signed for the promotion and marketing of this particular brand and Destination Gambia.
Minister Kah also thanked the President for his integration efforts and said The Gambia has a strategic location that can attract tourist to visit the country.
For her part, the Minister of Basic School Education, Mrs. Fatou Lamin Faye called on the tourism fraternity to build confidence in them and urged them to work hard in improving their marketing strategy because the rebranding of the logo is to market the country.
Minister Faye also challenged them to serve tourists with Gambian food rather than serving the same food found in their countries.
Mr. Badara Joof, the World Bank Country Liaison Officer thanked the President and said the World Bank is willing to assist countries that have determination. Mr. Joof also urged the tourism fraternity to move from routine tourism and be more proactive.
Mr. Remi Joiner, the Chairman of Gambia Tourism Authority said the benefits of the brand will not go to the Government alone but also to the private sector. He also thanked the Gambian leader and ensured that the new branding will add value to the tourism industry.
Mrs. Fatou Jallow, the Director General, Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) said the rebranding of the country will not only benefit the tourism industry but all Gambians and urged members of the tourism fraternity to collaborate in order to achieve their aims and objectives.
The ceremony was also attended by the Secretary General Head of the Civil Service, cabinet ministers, and stakeholders from the tourism sector and Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
By Alhagi Ceesay & Aji Fatou Jammeh