Our Programmes



Sign up to our newsletter.

Follow ODI

Improving Access for the Informal Sector to Tourism in The Gambia

Working paper

Working paper

The Gambia is a poor developing country that has become a popular winter sun destination, particularly for UK tourists. As in many other enclave-type destinations, tourism has developed in ways that provide few opportunities for poor people and the informal sector to participate. Traditionally the formal sector provides the accommodation and transport in which tourists spend most of their time. In the past, the most visible roles taken up by the poor were as hawkers, clustering around coaches trying to sell their goods and, beach ‘bumsters’ seeking to befriend tourists as guides.

However in The Gambia an innovative approach has been taken to addressing this situation through a Tourism Challenge Fund (TCF) funded project. A number of objectives and activities were established to make tourism more ‘pro-poor’ and specifically to increase access of the informal sector to market opportunities in tourism. Since the start of this initiative three years ago, there are several very practical steps that have been implemented, progress and challenges to report on, tangible impacts to document, and a range of lessons learned useful to others.

Experience in The Gambia since 2000 is therefore an invaluable case study of how pro-poor tourism issues can be tackled in practice. In particular, the approach focuses on the use of a multistakeholder strategy for addressing problems and implementing solutions. It demonstrates what can be achieved by partnership approaches between the formal and informal sectors, including licensed and unlicensed guides, ‘bumsters’, fruit and juice sellers, craft market stallholders, the taxi drivers, ground handlers, hoteliers, UK tour operators and their representatives in the resort. Actions that have proved effective include badging, licensing, marketing and advertising of poor producers’ products in hotels, and codes created and policed by the informal sector.

Adama Bah & Harold Goodwin