It is a terribly sad reality that tourists often will not leave their hotel in the Gambia. On the buses from the airport they are warmed that it is unsafe, and they are often convinced to upgrade to all-inclusive to avoid the need to venture outside. This infuriates me.
The local people may hassle you to buy things, and they may ask if you need a taxi each time you walk out of the hotel, but they are just trying to make a living. They are harmless, almost always extremely friendly, and they are certainly not a danger.
By the tourists not leaving their hotels these people often have no business and cannot feed their families. It is extremely sad. These are hard working people that would do anything for you, in exchange for a few small Pounds.
When I booked my trip to the Gambia I purposely did not book a transfer through Monarch Holidays, I did not want to give Monarch my money, I wanted to give it to local people. Not only was it cheaper to grab a taxi outside the airport, it was more of a cultural experience, and it did not involve driving around the entire resort dropping off tourists at their hotels (and you know your hotel will always be last on the list).
I have seen tourists at my hotel that have not left once. They are unaware of what is going on outside of the complex walls. They have not mixed with the local people, they have not tried the local restaurants and they have not shopped at the local markets.
By tourists not leaving their hotel local taxi drivers sit outside waiting for business that never comes, the local artists never have the opportunity to sell their arts and crafts, restaurants remain largely empty. Gambia is a very poor country, and tourism is a huge money maker, and a great way for local people to make a living and support their families…but how can they do this if the tourists never leave their hotels?
The local people told me of their worries, they told me how they just want to do their job, but they can’t because the tourists won’t come out. Wouldn’t you rather know that your money is going to feeding a local family, rather than to a foreign owned or multi-national corporation?
The problem is, that the tourists have no idea about any of this. They are ignorant to any money problems the locals have, and they have no reason to doubt the reps when they tell them it is unsafe. The reps clearly do this to cover themselves, and to make more business for the hotels, but I think it is ethically and morally wrong- the tourists should not be disillusioned like this and the local businesses should not be disregarded in such a way.
So this is a message to anybody thinking about planning a holiday to Gambia- do it- it’s fantastic! But get out of the hotel! There are great local restaurants, the local people are so helpful and friendly and there is also so much to do from markets to crocodiles and monkeys! Don’t give all of your money to that multi-national corporation that will see it return to the UK or America, spend local and help improve the lives of many people in Africa-your Pounds can make a real difference to their lives-so put your money where your mouth is and spend local!