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Over 40 practitioners from eight countries participated in this south-south exchange of knowledge about how tourism can benefit destination communities. Participants came from Austria, The Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and the UK
The Institute of Travel and Tourism of The Gambia (ITTOG) launched its 1st International Conference on Responsible Tourism Practices, the 16th Responsible Tourism in Destination conference, in partnership with the HerMaP Gambia project. Hosted at Sindola Safari Lodge 24th – 25th January, this year‘s conference theme was responsible cultural heritage management and leveraging sustainable practices for community development and growth. The main purpose of the conference was to share, advocate and nurture the development of the West Africa International Centre for Responsible Tourism to develop exchange amongst practitioners across Africa and beyond.
Keynote speakers over the 2 days were Professor Harold Goodwin from the ResponsbleTourism Partnership, Dr Evangelos Kyriakidis and Baba Ceesay from the Heritage Management Organization, and Co-Founders of the Ninki Nanka Encounter’s Foundation Adama Bah (also founder and Chairman of ITTOG) and Lucy McCombes. Presentations included discussions around using cultural heritage and history as a vehicle for community engagement and benefit, designing cultural heritage interventions for tourism, and the responsible development of Gambia’s Ninki Nanka Trail linking heritage sites and community-based tourism communities along the River Gambia.
In addition, the programme incorporated the option to visit Janjanbureh and experience some of Gambia’s cultural tourism offerings through the Kankurang Festival, NCAC’s Kankurang Museum and the dynamic activities of the JUST ACT youth initiative. (Janjanbureh Uniting Sustainable Tourism and Community Training).
Key to the success of the event was the opportunity for south-south collaboration between staff from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the World Bank Project Implementation Unit, Leeds Beckett University, knowledge sharing around the topic. Participants included senior staff from Gambia Tourism Board (GTB), National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Independent National Assembly Member (NAM) (Omar Jammeh for Janjanbureh) and Hon. Alieu Baldeh, and 25 tourism professionals who have been awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study MSc Responsible Tourism Management through Leeds Beckett University in the UK. These Commonwealth Scholars were able to learn from the experiences of The Gambia and share their own practices from Kenya, Ghana, The Gambia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar.
Sheikh Tejan Niang – Director of ITTOG – said that such collaborations across the African Continent is extremely important for putting into practice sustainable tourism in Africa.
It is envisaged that moving forward, ITTOG will be hosting an annual international conference with a range of different partners to share responsible practices around key issues and topics at the heart of implementing responsible tourism. Such activity it is hoped will nurture the existing seeds for Gambia to develop an international centre for responsible tourism practitioners.
As Adama Bah concluded in his presentation, “it is time to move on from being “paper tigers” to scaling up the more active implementation of responsible tourism policy on the ground”.