Tamala began almost four years ago. It was the latest edition of the Djeliba Leisure Group, which operates five hotels. It started with Djeliba, which was the first hotel that they ran. Then they took over Djembe Beach Resort. From there, they built their first hotel, Balafon Beach Resort. After that, they agreed to build Tamala Beach Resort and become part of the Sunprime franchise, a club of 16 hotels worldwide.
Consequently, they have built another hotel, which is Kalimba Beach Resort. They were in the process of building another hotel – Kora Beach Resort which would have been their last hotel, but COVID took over the situation, and they decided that it was not the right time to invest money to finish the sixth hotel in the group.
Tamala is 100% Gambian-owned. The company that owns Tamala is Balafon Company Limited, owned by Mr Malleh Sallah and Mr Omar Jawara. They started this partnership eight years ago. And it has resulted in a lot of success. He believes that a trustful and hardworking partnership between two people can do better than working on your own. His advice to young Gambian people in business is that if you find someone credible, compliment you, be honest, and be as hardworking as you, cooperate with them because you can create bigger things than doing things alone.
Mr Sallah proudly says that Tamala Beach Resort is a Gambian-owned hotel. Two Gambians who decided to work together years ago built up this partnership to the point where they are building hotels that can challenge any hotel in the world. Gambians run 99% of the operations in Tamala. He believes Gambians can do it.
Tamala aims to present anyone who comes into the hotel with the utmost hospitality, a friendly smile, and a clean environment. During the first year of Covid, they trained their staff to understand that they must follow stringent guidelines and ensure that the rooms are properly sanitised. The same applies to the kitchen and all other aspects of the hotel. Their mission is to show that Gambians can do it. And to ensure that anyone leaves Tamala with a smile.
From an architectural point of view, Tamala is incredibly unique. Before they built Tamala, they looked at many models that the architect came up with. They wanted substantial open spaces, where when people come in, they see the Atlantic Ocean and feel very open and free in a hotel environment. They decided to go modern, simple, and unique.
Part of their concept is water, which led to the decision for a big investment in the pools. They feel that the pools make a big difference in the value of the hotel and the experience that the guests have when they come in because water always creates a very calming aura. When you decide to stay in a hotel, you come to enjoy yourself and relax. And they believe and feel that water does that for them.
Half of Tamala's rooms have pools where one can immediately jump into a swimming pool from their room terrace. Some rooms have private pools that have full access facing the beach, which Mr Sallah qualifies as the best rooms in the country.
All the names of the hotels in Djeliba Group are connected to music, history, and culture. The decorations in rooms complement all mentioned above with African art.
When talking about obstructions, Mr Sallah sees challenges in the skills of young people. They aim to transform one of their hotels into a hospitality institute where people can learn by practice. They recognise and follow the new trend with hospitality institutions that a hotel decides to become an educational centre, where individuals will be able to combine theory with practice.
Their vision was to employ 2500 people by 2025 and uplift the lives of young Gambians to the point where they become valuable to them and this tiny nation.
Balafon Limited Group helps The Gambia's tourism sector grow by producing high-quality goods and services producing high-quality goods and services Balafon Limited Group helps The Gambia tourism sector grow. Mr Sallah acknowledges that the Gambian hospitality industry needs to be developed to a point where a hotel in The Gambia can compete with hotels in Spain, Greece, Turkey, and other popular tourist locations throughout the world to succeed in this tough competition.
Another important contribution recently was introducing Tamala Beach Resort to people living in The Gambia. Domestic tourism has been booming since the summer of 2020, and they are very proud and thankful that most of the guests are Gambians.
Balafon Limited Group is a company that understands the potential of the country. There were approximately 250,000 tourists that were visiting the country during the high season before Covid struck. But he believes there is a potential to attract a million tourists.
If a million tourists flooded The Gambia today, it would be impossible to accommodate them. So new hotels must be built with high-standard rooms, enabling operators and independent tourists to come and visit the country.
So, their vision is to keep contributing, building, and hiring to the point where they can have 2500 Gambians employed, which means they plan to build another six, seven, or eight hotels.
As a business, they have decided to pivot a little so that they will showcase a new product. They will build a "mini-city" on the beach: forty luxury homes, eighty townhouses and almost two hundred apartments.
Mr Sallah believes in The Gambia and its potential. "The potentials of tourism for this country are extreme, and there's so much potential that we have not achieved yet. Our kitchens rely a lot on vegetables, fish, poultry, meat, lamb, and beef. These are all industries that can be spurred to success. If we have the right amount of tourism coming into the country, tourists who come here spend money that positively affects our economy. The amount of foreign exchange they bring into our country helps to create our foreign exchange reserves and stabilises our currency. So, many linkages can be created if we strategise well and make sure that we understand the potential of tourism and create linkages through agriculture, fisheries, our work, aquaculture, hospitality, and other hospitality outlets like restaurants, tours, etc."
"There are so many things that can complement the tourism product that I feel, as a country, we have not achieved yet. And we need to start thinking about how we pivot ourselves and restart our country and our industry. For the future of Gambian tourism, we have to look at more ways that Gambians can benefit and can create businesses that can support the tourism industry as well."