Chris Rowles has been our managing director at The Gambia Experience for 15 years and has been visiting The Gambia for more than 25 years. Here, he shares some thoughts from his latest October 2014 trip in what is proving to be a very difficult time for the small West African nation.
“As usual during October, I am currently visiting The Gambia before the winter season begins and I must say it is refreshing to escape the UK media hype currently surrounding the Ebola virus. Although only present in 3 of 18 West African countries, The Gambia is at risk of becoming an unfortunate victim of belonging to West Africa - despite being completely Ebola free, surrounded by Senegal whose borders are closed to affected areas with no flights from affected countries.
What has struck me since my arrival is the sense of normality as holidaymakers here enjoy the beautiful beaches, the sunshine and excellent accommodation and restaurants on offer. These have not changed and the Gambians still have a welcoming smile for us as they go about their daily lives. In the hotels it is ‘business as usual’ and I must say that they are looking better than ever after the preparations and renovations that have been carried out over the last few months, and are now ready to welcome tourists. There are several new properties in our programme this year, such as White Horse Residence with its stunning sunsets, Lemon Creek on a beautiful stretch of beach in Bijilo along with the reintroduction of Coconut Residence. And not forgetting the breathtaking new infinity pool at Ngala Lodge or the uniqueness of what Mandina Lodges have to offer. Whether you are after simple, clean accommodation, an all-inclusive holiday or a boutique hotel with fine dining, The Gambia has it all.
I have great confidence that all the properties in our programme will provide you with a holiday to remember, whether you are a regular visitor or in search of some R&R and wintersun – they are waiting to welcome you here in sunny Gambia.
So, am I concerned about Ebola? – of course, but my main concern is not the risk of catching the disease. I have had meetings with the British Ambassador and his message is simple: ‘there is no Ebola in The Gambia’ (and his children aged 12 and 16 arrived this week from the UK for a holiday). I also met with the UNICEF representative of the Ebola Prevention Task Force – his view was that The Gambia is more prepared now than Senegal was when it successfully managed the isolated case there in August.
My concern is the impact that the negative publicity will have on The Gambia and its people if tourists choose not to spend their holidays here this year. So please take a look at what we have to offer…”