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Friday, 10 October 2014 11:47

Gambia: International Tourism Investment Forum 2014

By Yunus Saliu

BANJUL, Gambia, October 10, 2014 (The Daily Observer) -- On the upcoming maiden edition of the International Tourism Investment Forum 2014 scheduled for October 16th to 18th 2014 jointly organized by the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) and the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), Fatou M Jallow, Chief Executive Officer of GIEPA, on this week's edition of Tourisphere, discussed the incentive package for investors; expectations from the forum and the intended targets among other things.

Below is a short interview held in her office situated at Kairaba Avenue.

Tourisphere: The upcoming International Tourism Investment Forum 2014 is the maiden edition of a jointly organized tourism investment forum by the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) and the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA). What led to this partnership?

CEO GIEPA: The Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) and The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), are both institutions setup by the government with roles and responsibilities to contribute to the national development agenda; which is the development of The Gambia and people of this country. It is expected that we will all work together to meet our set objectives. So we are naturally bound in terms of delivery on our mandates. Specifically, with the GTBoard, GIEPA's role is more on investment promotion and facilitation in tourism and related sectors.

The GTBoard focuses mainly on marketing destination Gambia and product development to attract tourists. Of course, to attract the types of tourists that the country wants, there is need for more investment in high end facilities.

Given our objectives, the two institutions decided to have a formal MOU underpinned by concrete strategies and activities to be implemented jointly. One of the activities within the MoU is the investment forum.

Tourisphere: With this upcoming International Tourism Investment Forum 2014, what does GTBoard and GIEPA aspire to achieve?

CEO GIEPA: It is all about creating awareness which is expected to attract more investment in tourism focusing not only on direct foreign investment, but also creating a platform for networking between foreign and local investors.

Tourisphere: More explanation on this.

CEO GIEPA: There are various forms of investments. Foreign investors come into the destination and own 100% of their investment. They can also form partnerships with Gambians. One could also have a scenario where an existing investment in tourism needs to undergo some refurbishment and or expansion but does not have the capital to do so. So we are not only looking on the investors coming into the country to setup new businesses on their own. The forum is an opportunity for us to bring together the local players in the sector to meet with other international players and hopefully establish linkages that will result in future investments.

Tourisphere: What are the opportunities and incentives awaiting investors in The Gambia?

CEO GIEPA: There are a numbers of incentives already put in place by the government of The Gambia for any investor to benefit from and these are not only limited to the tourism sector. However, focusing on tourism, the incentives vary depending on the level of investment, location of the investment, as well as its status as to whether it is an existing one or a new one. These incentives include tax breaks on corporate and turnover tax, withholding tax on dividends and depreciation allowance for a period of 5 to 8 years, depending on the project's location. There is also the waiver on import sales tax (VAT) on direct inputs for the project.

For a new investor with a project that is located outside the Greater Banjul Area and beyond the town of Brikama, your investment incentives are augmented to a period of eight years instead of five years.

Tourisphere: Are these incentives limited to only foreign investors?

CEO GIEPA: In The Gambia there is no discrimination between local and foreign investors. Obviously, there is a perception that all GIEPA efforts in terms of investment and in term of incentives are for foreign investors. This is not the case. It is the same incentive package and eligibility criteria we have for both Gambian and foreign investors. It does not matters where you come from.

Tourisphere: What are your targets and expectations as far as the upcoming International Tourism Investment Forum is concerned?

CEO GIEPA: More exposure for The Gambia as a country particularly when it comes to investment opportunities in tourism and it related sectors. We are optimistic that the forum will attract participants who would come in and actually invest in the country either alone or in partnership with Gambians.

Tourisphere: Do you think that the unstable exchange rate can discourage investors and what other factors investors look into for their investment?

CEO GIEPA: Exchange rate is a concern not only in terms of tourism investment. However we need to understand that making a decision to invest in a country goes beyond just putting into consideration only one factor. Any serious investor making an investment will not only look at the immediate returns but will focus on the long term benefits. Other key factor that investors look at include the stability of the country, the security, the business environment, the people and the opportunities, and the Gambia's ranking on these variables is quite positive.

Four compelling reasons to invest in The Gambia

Competitive tourism hot-spot

World's 2nd most price-competitive market for tourism (WEF).

The most competitive country in West Africa (WEF).

Planned tourism growth rate of 15% until 2020.

Winner of multiple eco-tourism awards.

Excellent eco-tourism offer and know-how

80km of pristine coastline and a navigable, un-spoilt river.

Diverse bird and fish species and unique natural attractions.

400 tourism graduates each year.

Most efficient labour market in West Africa (WEF).

Strong and improving infrastructure

Banjul International Airport recently upgraded with US$21 million investment, with 318,240 passengers in 2011.

North and south-bank roads along the navigable river ensure easy access throughout the country.

Attractive incentive, competitive costs

Free allocation of land under a 50 years lease.

Competitive labour costs and license fees.

Strong political support for development in recreational fishing and bird watching.

Comprehensive guidance and support from GIEPA.

Fiscal incentive for minimum 5 years.



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