Let’s talk about responsible tourism in The Gambia with Mr Adama Bah

˝If one country can actually give advice and the whole tourism in our country stops completely while our country is becoming more and more dependent on tourism, then this economic factor is not very sustainable for us, and we have to take a deeper look into it˝.

Mr Adama’s concern for his people and the small country led him to kiss goodbye to his 25 years old job as a hotelier, starting as a waiter to a receptionist then to a manager of Bungalow Beach Hotel.

Today Mr Bah is the board chairman of the Institute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia, the founder of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism-West Africa, a consultant at the International Trade Center, an associate member of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism and many more.
His interest in responsible and community-based tourism was sparked due to travel advice passed against The Gambia by the British government. In 1994, the coup d’etat of former president Yahya Jammeh happened, which made the British troubled. British travellers were advised against travelling to The Gambia in November when the tourism season had just reopened. Unfortunately for tour operators, tourists from Britain stopped coming. The Scandinavians later adopted the travel advice making a bigger impact on the tourism of the country.
Refusing to be an onlooker of the situation, Adama Bah gathered fellow managers and senior staff of several hotels forming an NGO called Tourism Concern. The group began to make dialogue with the representatives of Britain and Scandinavia. The statement was later retracted and rephrased in favour of the country. The season resumed normally, and everyone went back to their work. But this was not the end of Mr Bah’s concern. He continued his movement by establishing an NGO with a small group. They did radio programs called the Tourist Banataba, and a paper was released called Concerned magazine mainly looking at sustainable tourism. Mr Bah finally resigned from his job to concentrate on sustainable tourism.
Through the NGO, he met other NGOs in Europe who are also campaigning for sustainable tourism. He worked with the VSO and an organization called Tear Fund as a consultant to research how much fund stays in destinations where British tourists travel to. The research later showed that out of every 1 pound, only 10 pennies remains in the destination. A massive campaign was held for sustainability, and they decided to involve the consumers (tourists). Mr Bah was then invited to London by the UN as the voice of the South to talk about Responsible and sustainable tourism.
˝In the beginning, I was against anything big. But later, I realized mass tourism is good if handled in the right way˝. 

When talking about the downsides of mass tourism, he points out mass tourism can be good if it can be used to benefit the country’s economy. If hotels and accommodation companies buy their vegetables and groceries from the local people instead of importing them, this can be considered good for the local people. Fortunately, today many tour operators are working towards responsible and sustainable tourism.

The Gambia has high potential in the development of responsible and community-based tourism. The country is famous for its warm people, which impresses tourists about the little nation. This is where the idea of the Ninki Nanka trail comes from.

Every destination has one unique thing about them which they don’t share with any other destination. It is their culture. A German Lady called Monica King Col was the one who came up with the idea of the Ninki Nanka trail. She said if The Gambia can have a product that can look at the culture and place of The Gambia, then the tourist will be very, very keen to come and see the product within the overall culture of The Gambia.

The Ninki Nanka is a famous folklore story in The Gambia. The legend of the Ninki Nanka is about the creature by that name that creates the creeks of The River Gambia, and it lives in the deep forest.

˝We were told that if a person sees the Ninki Nanka, they die.˝

A hunter was the only one who went hunting for the Ninki Nanka. He placed a big mirror in front of him so he wouldn’t see the Ninki Nanka. When the Ninki Nanka came out, it saw its own reflection and ran off. That was the last time it was seen. The hunter became rich and powerful in his own society. That is why it is believed that if the Ninki Nanka sees you first, you become a very powerful person.

So the expedition of the trail is for tourists to hunt for the Ninki Nanka on The Gambian River. And while doing that, you witness many cultures and ways of living in The Gambia.

The tour was tested and modified many times, and now people are satisfied with the current itinerary. It is a trip with different packages, from a short three-day trip to a seven-day full trail. It is a very adventurous tour where visitors can experience authentic Gambian culture. The tour also benefits the community and the locals directly. Villagers are educated on how to receive their guests, so tourists are not uncomfortable throughout the trip. Also, tourists are informed of the cultures of the local communities they are visiting.

The Ninki Nanka trail will be available for booking at the beginning of the next year, with a goal to contribute to the development of responsible tourism in The Gambia and broaden the choice of ways of exploring our beautiful country.

Do you want to encounter Ninki Nanka?
If you want to get a taste of freshly made domoda, learn how to do palm fan, cook rice pudding or ride a horse cart in a remote village up the river, send us an inquiry at info@my-gambia.com.
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