Saturday, December 3

$20 tax on Passengers at Banjul Intl Airport – Gambia government upsets travelers and Tourism Stakeholders

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After a first catastrophic attempt in 2018, the government of The Gambia has reintroduced a 20 dollars levy for inbound and outbound passengers at the Banjul International airport. The move has sparked a wide range of general disapproval from actors in the Tourism sector as well as economic specialists who deem the tax toxic for business as uncertainty grapples the 2020/2021 winter tourist’s season with the coronavirus pandemic jeopardizing efforts by tour operators struggling to attract visitors to Gambia.

In enforcing its 20 $ tax levied on passengers at the Yundum airport, the government of President Adama Barrow is bringing anew a contract signed on 21st September 2018 with SECURIPORT. The five year Build, Maintain and Transfer deal on airport and immigration security was said to help provide security for the civil aviation and immigration as well as it takes care of E-Visa management system for the Gambian Government.

Despite the Gambia Government’s argument that the presence of SECURIPORT was necessary because of emerging security threats in the sub region, the tax was eventually canceled due largely to public and tourism stakeholders decries. Yet, the Government of President Adama Barrow never relented in reintroducing the highly criticized tax with new instructions on its enforcement now forwarded to the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the institution responsible for regulations and management at the Banjul airport.

This decision came as a shock to all of us (Gambia Tourism Board and Ministry of Tourism and culture), we have not been copied with even the letter that carried the decision. To us this is a deliberate act because we have always been complaining against this $20 levy as it is not helpful to the industry,” said a top official of Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) who spoke anonymously to The Chronicle. The GT Board official observed that the decision will cost the travel and tourism industry in no small terms, revealing that tour operators has already started complaining about the reintroduction of the levy.

Liane Sallah, President of the Travel and Tourism Association of the Gambia (TTAG) doubling as the Managing Director of African Adventure Tours reacted that the reintroduction of the immigration and civil aviation security levy is a very bad decision that will negatively affected the tourism and travel industry. “The decision for tourists to pay $40 is a very bad decision that may lead to some tourists canceling their trips this year. We (TTAG) have not been engaged nor have we been invited to any discussions or meetings that led to this bad decision,” TTAG President reacted.

According to her, members of the Travel and Tourism Association of the Gambia (TTAG) have earlier protested to the minister of Tourism and culture in April of this year about the possible introduction of the levy on clients, adding that the tourism minister assures that the $40 levy will never be allowed to be introduced. Expressing her disappointment, the TTAG chair said “When we heard in March of this year that the government is on discussion about the reintroduction of the immigration and civil aviation security levy, we reacted through the minister of tourism and culture who asked us to go and sleep because this will never come into effect. So this is a big surprise to us (TTAG) because we were asked to go and sleep but unfortunately it’s here with us” said Liane Sallah.

Abdoulie Baks Touray, a season economist and former Chairman Board of Directors, Gambia Tourism Board observed that throughout the world, The Gambia is only one of ten countries that imposed such a levy on passengers, adding that Gambia is the only country in Africa that is charging Arrival Tax on passengers using its airport. Touray disclosed that “Many people book flights and wonder what are all the extra taxes and fees they see listed. Sometimes these taxes and fees are worked into the initial price showing on a booking site. But sometimes taxes and fees are added in after, often leaving travelers scratching their heads at the final price,” said Abdoulie Baks Touray.

The Chronicle contacted Lamin Dibba, Public Relations Officer of The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) who declined to shed light on the development but only to refer this reporter to the ministry of interior for further clarification. The Chronicle further unearthed that Kathrine Nyang, Deputy Managing Director of GCAA and Abdoulie Hydara, former Director General of Gtboard have all protested against the introduction of the levy sometimes in 2018, at a meeting held at Statehouse.

Kathrine Nyang, was contacted by this reporter but his effort went futile after her rejection of multiple calls placed on her Qcell mobile phone line.