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Tourism Minister berates unnecessary checks, fraud at airport

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Hamat Bah is known for speaking his mind, often causing controversy.

Controversial tourism minister Hamat Bah has criticized the unnecessary security checks and fraudulent activities happening at the country’s only airport.

Bah said even Gambians coming home do get harassed by officials at the Banjul International Airport.

“A lot of administrative adjustments has to be made at the airport… There is immigration, customs, security… and everybody want to do their quota on the other side… It needs to be dealt with,” said Bah.

Hamat held his first meet with the press in 2019 on Friday at Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute to update the public on the progress report of his ministry.

The picture Bah paint of the fraud at Airport is grim. He said one of the security details of the former British Foreign Secretary Borris Johnson have told him during their visit to Gambia in 2017 that a security man harassed him at the airport asking for £100.

“He told me that I met one of your securities and he asked me for a £100 if not he will not stamp my passport. This is a guy who sits with British Foreign Secretary who makes decision about our country having that impression,” said Bah.

“When a Gambian comes from foreign country with mobiles to give to family, they will ask you to pay… Gambian travelling to your own country and your first point of entry you are harassed for few mobiles you are going to give to friends and loved ones. Can we continue like that? No.”

However, the Tourism Minister said the administration of the Airport is doing a good job in improving the conditions of the infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Minister said the country has registered an incredible improvement on tourist arrival, registering 209, 000 arrivals in 2018.

He said for the first quarter of this year, they have witnessed 97% increase on arrivals, from over 40, 000 arrivals in 2018 to over 75, 000 arrivals in 2019.

The Tourism Minister said the goal is getting 500, 000 arrivals. While that remains a farfetched dream, Bah said the all-year-round tourism is becoming a reality.

“We are now getting 8 flights a week from mostly about 3 flights a weeks in the past… We are proud to say our all-year-round tourism is becoming a reality,” said Bah.

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