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Interview with Mrs Liane Sallah

My Magazine 2022/02
10 min
The year 2020 marked a lockdown for most businesses, especially in the tourism sector. The year 2019 is significant as a benchmark in pre-Covid-19 business all along the African continent. Tourism has been experiencing a hard time since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Gambia is an African gem, endowed with natural beauties, and expanding cultural and tourist facilities.

The CEO of African Adventure Tours, Liane Sallah, has been working in the tourism sector in The Gambia for more than 20 years. She is also the CEO of one of the most famous beach restaurants in The Gambia, Poco Loco Beach Club, Kololi and she is a co-founder of the newly opened restaurant Cocoricooo at Tropic Center.

Such success of her companies isn’t a coincidence to any knowledgeable person, but a product of the continuous development, creativity and hard work and the person who leads them.

We had a chance to talk with Ms Liane Sallah.

1. To get started, could you tell us how you came up with the idea for African Adventure Tours?

I worked as a Manager for a Dutch Tour Operator, and the owner was at that time like a father to me, and he wanted to start a Ground Handling Company in The Gambia. He asked me if my husband was interested in setting it up with him, as he needed a Gambian Partner. This is how it started. I have been involved since the start as I had a lot of knowledge in the tourism sector. Within African Adventure Tours (AAT) I was running the operational part of the Tour Operator side, as I was the Resort Manager of this Tour Operator. I took over as CEO about 10 years ago, as my husband at that time started in the hotel business.

2. The company is very diverse. How do you take care of all your employees, their training and their ability to create a friendly working atmosphere?

I believe in Team Building. I have been working on team building ever since. Everyone has their responsibilities within AAT, and I believe that when you delegate well, check up on all that is happening, and appreciate everyone for what they do, the team will start taking their responsibilities well with pride and joy. I meet with the managers on a regular base, and we discuss their work, results and challenges. We have meetings with the whole staff regularly, as I always want to know how they experience their work and challenges as well so we can find solutions to problems and celebrate positive results. When trainings need to be done, I will discuss this with the person involved, and we look for the best options for them to grow within the company, but I also want them to grow for themselves.

3. The Covid-19 virus pandemic has affected the entire world economy, especially the industries where the service is the dominant segment. Does the current global Covid-19 situation continue to have an impact on your business going forward into this year and beyond? Do you have any concerns?

Yes, unfortunately, Covid has tried to destroy all we have built up. But I have been raised in such a way, and I run my business in such that you always need to have a reserve, in case of bad times happening, or bad decisions being made. Because running a business is taking risks, and you need to be prepared to take risks, but you need to take calculated risks and you always need to be prepared for storms to come. This has kept us alive during the storm of Covid, but this storm cannot go on much longer. But it pushes you to walk a different path and to try out other things. This is where we are now; we keep ongoing.

4. Does your business experience any changes compared to the pre-Covid-19 time?

Yes, changes in the attitude of the clients we work with, and we are trying to find our way in this. People are more scared, people are more stressed and unhappy. So it takes more effort to create positive results within our field.

5. What practical tips do you have to share on survival for other travel or tourism startups out there?

Keep believing in yourself, and keep a positive mindset. Keep on motivating your team, because you cannot do it alone, and you all need to have your nose pointed into the same direction to become successful without too many bad setbacks. Together as a team, you are stronger. Take your responsibility, delegate well, and with that show appreciation. This will be your way to a successful result. And do not give up when you fail. Success never comes without failure.

6. How would you describe African Adventures Tours' primary focus?

Right now, our primary focus is to survive this storm, so we can prepare for the better times that are laying ahead of us. We prepare through rebranding, through focusing on social media platforms. Through looking at the flow of the market. So we are ready for the next tourist season.

7. African Adventures Tours is an official partner of Corendon and Specialized Tour Operators in Europe and Africa. How do you keep up with this position despite the strong competition?

It’s the personal attention, the personal touch, communication, the care and the love we show to our partners within our work. This creates loyalty. And loyalty keeps people together, also in business.

8. Since the time African Adventures was established, The Gambia looked different. In your opinion how much does your company take part in changing The Gambia for the better?

We have created lots of jobs for young Gambians, and within AAT especially for girls. I am a strong fighter for the rights of women, and as I am one myself, I know what women are capable of. And I think that putting women in positions that are usually taken by men, has created a positive change in that field. Women look at certain situations differently and it has created a good balance within AAT. I hope more businesses will follow.

9. Tourism potentials of The Gambia are not utilized to the maximum. What do you think of the present situation and what is the going forward direction for tourism here?

The River Gambia is not utilized to the maximum. Let me say it more clear; it is not being used, and that I find a real pity. The Gambia needs to look into investment into proper River Cruise boats that can show  The Gambia to the tourist in an amazing way. Also, proper lodges need to be built upcountry as it will attract different tourists, rather than only the beach lovers. It will create new jobs, especially upcountry and that is needed.

10. Can you tell us something more about the further plans of AAT?

As we have been on a standstill, and as we have been on survival modus, trying to survive, we have not been able to execute plans. We are now focussing on getting known on the web, for us to see what the wishes are, and to build from there. The world is still in major change. We are looking for opportunities, and when we see one, we will dive in.

11. Are there specific regions or destinations that you’re focused on attracting future tourists?

We focus on Culture, nature and especially the people. The Gambian people are for sure the focus of our tours, as they are just very interesting. The different tribes, with their specific cultures.

12. Why do you think responsible tourism has become such a big part of travelling and how are you going to capitalize more on that going forward?

Tourists like to see the preservation of local cultures. Rather than building new attractions that conform to the culture we're familiar with, responsible tourism seeks to support the existing resources and available experiences. Tourists still seek unspoilt places to visit, and The Gambia still has this to offer. This is why AAT emphasizes on showcasing The Gambia in the most local way possible for the Western spoilt tourists. They appreciate it, as most of them come from a world that is more fake than real nowadays. Back to basic, touches peoples senses and hearts in a way they need to touch base for themselves again.

13. Leading such an important business requires much responsibility and devotion. How do you cope with stress? How did you find work/life balance?

My way of coping with stress is not to forget about me. So I will do the things that make me happy as well. I love to do sports and I love to sing.
And I’m a fan of being all goofy through laughing, joking and dancing with my daughters around the living room. It is a great way to blow off steam. It frees my mind from all the stress around me, and it keeps me sane. Next to that, I keep my sense of humour alive and smiling makes me feel better. I have the freedom to create my own work hours for most of the time, and I do not mind working hard. When you do what you love doing, it is not hard to put many hours into it. Plus I have some amazing friends who cheer me up when I’m down and who will make me laugh until I cry.

14. Besides your manager post at the companies, you're involved in teaching and supporting Gambian youth. How do you find yourself in this position?

I was born to motivate people to become the best version of themselves. Maybe this is one of my strengths in being a leader. I do not think I am better than anyone, because everyone has certain qualities that I do not own. I look at people’s strengths, and I try to make them see them as well. It’s a wonderful process to watch a person transforming into a better version of him or herself. For them to believe in themselves. I will always compliment people for their efforts, but then again I am also not scared to tell people the truth when I see them making the wrong choices in life.

15. In your opinion what are the key changes The Gambia has to undergo in order to be a tourist super-power?

First of all, better communication between the stakeholders and the Tourism Board. We are still too much on our own little islands. And this is not the way forward to becoming a super-power in Tourism. Secondly, I have noticed that people do not easily take advice. Ego in this country is undeniable, and often a deal-breaker during crucial times of decision making. Thirdly, the knowledge and expertise in the higher levels of government in building up the tourism sector is not up to standard as yet, but there I refer back to my second point. Also, the infrastructure needs to be improved to be able to receive tourists the right way. And here I am referring to: Roads, Air Access, Airport, electricity & water supply as the main points that need change. For example: We have a new airport, but if the belt for luggage at check-in is already not working, what does this tell us about our readiness in Tourism? If we still need to rely on generators in hotels and restaurants to have electricity for our guests, because the country cannot provide it 24/7? What does this tell about our readiness to become a super-power in Tourism? We have quite a long way to go. But I am an optimist, so I keep on working towards better times for the whole nation.



African Adventure Tours

African Adventure Tours is a Ground Tour Operator, organizing flights, airport transfers, hotel reservations and excursions within The Gambia for tour...
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Cocoricóóó is a trendy restaurant within the Food Court of the new Tropic Shopping Center in Kololi, The Gambia. Our specialities are delicious Chi...
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Poco Loco Beach Club

Poco Loco on the Beach, is a trendy beach club, situated directly on the beautiful sandy beach of Kololi. We opened our doors on November 26th 2011, a...
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