With a rich cultural heritage, beautiful sandy beaches, breath-taking sunset, hospitable people, and a pleasant weather, The Gambia - The Smiling Coast of Africa, is undoubtedly one of Africa’s top tourist countries.
Until the outbreak of Covid-19, the country has over the years attracted visitors in numbers from all over the world, especially European countries. This surge in the number of visitors comes with benefits for the economy and subsequently the people. The sector is the highest foreign exchange earner and one of the major employers of Gambians, especially women and young people.
Therefore, empowering young Gambians with in-demand hospitality and tourism skills will not only improve their employability in the industry, but also ensure efficient service delivery thus attracting more visitors. Cognizant of this economic opportunity for young people, the International Trade Centre (ITC), through its Youth Empowerment Project, UN Peacebuilding Fund project and Job Skills and Finance Programme, supported the training of 346 young people in hospitality and professional bakery across the country at The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute.
After completing all requirements of the 6-month programme, the International Trade Centre and its partners held a graduation ceremony for the young Gambians. The graduating students drawn from all regions of The Gambia, were equipped with both theoretical and practical skills in hospitality and professional bakery.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, the Project Coordinator & Senior Technical Adviser of the Youth Empowerment Project, Fatou Mbenga Jallow, stated that: "The interventions of ITC were guided by the Youth & Trade Roadmap for Tourism which identified a number of priorities including the need to improve the quality and relevance of TVET programs in tourism, reinforcing institutional capacities, and implementing high impact training to upskill youth and foster marketable jobs."
Covid-19 has hit the tourism industry hard causing a total halt on the number of visitors thus a closure of businesses and an increase in unemployment. The Ambassador of the European Union in The Gambia stressed EU`s unwavering commitment to supporting initiatives aimed at helping The Gambia build forward better. Ambassador Pampaloni shared: “The tourism industry across the whole world has gone through a difficult period. The impact of the pandemic has hit The Gambia very hard. But as we gather today, we have reasons to be optimistic. We are recovering from the crisis and will build back better."
The Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hamat NK Bah, said the initiative will promote quality and efficient service delivery and this will further strengthen Gambia’s position as a tourism hub in Africa. Minister Bah shared: "The training of this significant number of young people by GTHI during post Covid-19 will not only improve the quality of our hospitality services as an outstanding tourism destination, but also strengthen our position as a sub-regional hub for tourism."
Daouda Niang, Director General, GTHI, congratulated the students and told them that they made the best decision in joining GTHI for studies. Adding that the skills gained will open doors of opportunities for them. He stated that: “In making the decision to come to the GTHI to acquire more skills, you have opened up a door to a whole new world of opportunities."
Speaking on behalf of the students was Fatoumatta Sillah. The happy-looking Fatoumatta joyously expressed gratitude to the ITC through its projects and described the support as lifechanging. She thanked ITC for supporting their training.
"We want to thank the International Trade Centre for making our dreams come true. A lot of us have been picked from the streets and brought to GTHI. The future is bright, & we're grateful for the help you are giving Gambians."
For the students, this is a dream come true. And for The Gambia, this graduation is a big step towards building forward better from the impact of Covid-19.
The International Trade Centre has supported over 1500 young Gambians across the country with hospitality skills.
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