The Gambia seeks to attract “quality” visitors as the west African nation attempts to shed its image as a sex tourism destination.
A top tourism official of the country of around 2.5 million people said the government would welcome tourists interested in the positive side of the country and not those who came just for sex.
“What we want is quality tourists – tourists that come to enjoy the country and the culture, but not tourists that come just for sex,” Gambia Tourism Board director Abubacarr S Camara told The Telegraph.
He said the former British colony wanted to move beyond older people from the UK’s working-class backgrounds and target higher-end tourists and millennials.
According to him, the government was considering empowering police to round up bumsters and old women in suspected relationships in its bid to crack down on sex tourism.
The country, known as a sex haven for British grannies, witnessed a boom in tourism in the 1990s after the travel company Thomas Cook introduced low-cost flights from the UK.
However, tourism suffered after the company wound up in 2019 although foreigners seeking sex continued to visit the country.
In the absence of meaningful jobs and reasonable wages, Gambian men hook up with old women and make around £200 in a few days, an amount which would otherwise take a month to earn. Older women with toy boys are commonly seen and English music is heard in and around the Gambian capital city of Banjul.
But The Gambia is not all about prostitution.
Annette Griffin from Manchester, who set up a family-friendly pub, said the dubious reputation of The Gambia discouraged families from visiting the nation.
“Most of the tourists that come here, come for sex tourism… But apart from the seedy side of it, there is a nice side to The Gambia. I came here nine years ago on holiday and have stayed ever since,” she told The Telegraph.
Activists feel financial help could help the country address its poverty and the exploitation of Gambian boys.
Lamin Fatty of Child Protection Alliance said there should be greater coordination between The Gambia and the UK “to put solutions in place.”