Tourism offers much-needed income to poor countries. But who gets the holiday money? This project supports an award winning training college and local association of tourism businesses, helping students and SMEs to gain a livelihood through trade, not aid and generating income to support further development.
Our local partner in The Gambia says:
" As we in The Gambia are working hard to adapt our very important tourism industry for the post Covid it is important that we can continue to access the skills that people and places volunteers share with us. - even if they cannot travel to be with us. We are keen to work with volunteers who have business, IT, web design and language skills - we look forward to working with you - a warm welcome awaits you on the sunshine coast even if it is virtual sunshine!" Adama Bah - The Gambia
The Institute of Travel and Tourism in The Gambia (ITTOG) teaches and facilitates some skills-based experiential learning courses designed to provide students with the specialist skills required to work in a specific area of employment and to mentor them as they become independent earners, as well as teaching some formal, classroom-based courses in aspects of travel and tourism leading to formal qualifications.
Skills-based courses focus on areas such as culinary skills, performing arts and event management, and lead trainees through the process from students to independent earners, through college-based skills and business courses, work experience and mentoring support as trainees enter employment and become independent earners and/or set up their own associations.
One such association is No Woman Left Behind (NWLB), a new association established by the students of a cookery and food processing skills programme managed by ITTOG. The course supports young women, who have been exploited in their past (trafficking and abuse for example). The goal is to train the women in both cookery and business and personal skills that will enable them to be independent and build the future they want for themselves. The association aims to be a self-support group and network with other women’s associations to support other exploited women in The Gambia. They are doing this through the sale of their products such as pastries and local event catering.
Traditionally roles for women in The Gambia bind them to their families and domestic roles within that family (daughter, sister, wife, mother) and the land (farmer). Most of the population survives on subsistence agriculture, including local gardens which are traditionally nearly always the woman’s responsibility. In law, there is equality of the sexes. In practice, men tend to exert control over their wives and female children. At the same time, there is a growing women's movement in Gambia. The average family lives on a daily income of $1, but education after grade six costs $100 per year. Families frequently invest their small income in educating boys, whom they think will support them in adulthood. As a result, women struggle to find opportunities beyond domestic and agricultural labor. The aim of the Association is to provide the women with an alternative way of making a living for themselves, and to provide the business and personal skills to enable them to make independent decisions about their futures.
ITTOG also provides accredited training courses in travel and tourism-related subjects, ranging from Higher Professional Diplomas to tour guiding or cabin crew and airport certificates, priding themselves in the diversity of learning opportunities they offer. All courses focus on the concept of Responsible Tourism and how to make destinations better places to live in, and better places to visit, in that order. ITTOG is partnered with Central College Nottingham in the UK, and their courses are accredited by Central College as well as by the National Accreditation Quality Assurance Authority of The Gambia. One of ITTOG's key focuses is their belief in the power of entrepreneurship, and they work closely with and provide support for many local tourism-related businesses and community tourism initiatives.
Volunteers are needed to work alongside individual businesses and small enterprises who are or were formerly members of the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Responsible Tourism (ASSERT), particularly as tourism begins to reopen after the pandemic. Our partners in The Gambia support a number of these businesses which meet their strict criteria for responsible and pro-poor tourism.
ASSERT (formerly ASSET) was established in 2000 to bring together, advocate for, and promote a large number of small enterprises that are active in the tourism industry in The Gambia. Due to impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought tourism in The Gambia virtually to a halt, ASSERT is temporarily not operational, though membership remains. These enterprises include craft market vendors, batik and tie-dye fabric printers, tourist taxi drivers, official tourist guides, juice pressers and fruit sellers, as well as a number of guest houses, small hotels and ground tour operators. This initiative continues to play a leading role in the Gambian Responsible Tourism Partnership programme being led by the Gambian Tourist Authority, aiming to ensure that the adverse impacts of tourism are minimised and that maximum benefits are gained by local people and their communities.
Community tourism initiatives are focused on ways of ensuring that tourist trip as far as possible benefit the communities they visit. An example of this is the Ninki-Nanka Trail, a tourist trail tracing the route of the River Gambia. This is an exciting new responsible tourism initiative in The Gambia delivered in partnership with the Gambian Tourism Board and other stakeholders. The trail aims to disperse economic benefit to rural areas (currently vast majority of tourism benefit is on the coast, between Senegambia and Bakau, with only a small % of the tourism dollar benefitting Gambian people), diversify Gambia’s tourism product by providing new, authentic community-based and heritage experiences that build on the untapped potential of the River Gambia, and create opportunities for tourism to continue for longer than the very short 4-5 month tourist season based on the coast. Communities along the trail will provide accommodation for visitors, are being trained as tourist guides, and will provide a number of different authentic experiences for tourists as they trace the river and travel the full length of the country from west to east.
This is pro poor tourism at its best!
Depending on their skills and experience, volunteers will help to develop the capacity of ITTOG, NWLB and ASSERT members in a variety of ways. You may mentor some of the women in NWLB to help develop their business skills and personal development. You may link up with local people to develop one of the community tourism initiatives. You may work with staff at the college, helping to develop course modules and materials, train teachers and students and/or run courses for local businesses. Or you may be linked to a local business, helping them to develop their capacity through product development, accounting or marketing. Volunteer opportunities are many and varied in this project. Whatever your skills, you are needed to help make tourism an even greater force for good in The Gambia.
To learn more about how the volunteer programme works with this project read more here and here