Feature: Gambian tourism workers in hardship amid COVID-19 lay-off


BANJUL, July 27 (Xinhua) — Thousands of Gambians who are working in the tourism industry in the country have been laid off, causing economic difficulties, as hotels, bars and restaurants continue to close due to the rapid increase of coronavirus cases in the country.

The Gambia has registered 277 cases since the outbreak of the pandemic in the tiny West African country as of Monday afternoon, according to the Africa CDC data.

Sereign Bamba Njie works at Kairaba Beach Hotel in Senegambia, but he has been laid off since March. “Sitting at home doing nothing is really a terrible thing for me as head of a family,” he said.

He said it is really a very bad experience for him because the family goes hungry sometimes.

“I am sponsoring a girl child in school. When this is coupled up with my family responsibilities, without working, I really feel the pinch,” he told Xinhua.

He called on the government to support them in all ways in a timely manner so they can help their families at the critical time. “I am going into my fourth month now sitting without salary or support from either the hotel or the government,” he decried.

Over 150,000 Gambians are said to be employed in the tourism industry, most of whom are affected by either the entire closure of their employment centres or being laid off.

“Imagine being a family head and sitting at home doing nothing. What we are going through is truly difficult and we badly need help at this crucial time,” Foday Sonko, who has spent more than 15 years working in the industry told Xinhua.

He works at the Odelice Restaurant at the Village in Kololi, emphasizing that he is hardly hit by the closure of his restaurant. Sometimes there is not enough food for his family.

“We definitely need government’s intervention to help us from this unbearable situation,” he added.

An employee of Al Terrace Restaurant in Senegambia, Ebou Jallow, has also been affected by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. He too is currently without a job.

“The coronavirus has definitely hit me and my family because since it started, I have not been working. As the breadwinner of my family, I really feel the pain at its extreme,” Jallow said, adding that “It’s been more than three months that I did not receive any salary or support from the government.”

However, he acknowledged the support from his boss periodically.

“We definitely need support. You can see that the Tabaski Festival is fast approaching and it becomes more difficult for us now as family heads. In fact, the other day, my daughter got sick but I couldn’t take her to the hospital and this is one reason I am appealing to the government for a financial bailout,” Ebou told Xinhua.

Tourism is the second largest contributor to the country’s economy after agriculture, accounting for less than one-third of the gross domestic product.

The condition of workers in the industry continues to be more worried when the country’s largest tour operator FTI Group announced earlier in July that it will close operation due to COVID-19 pandemic as land borders and airspaces remain closed. Enditem


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