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The Conversation recently published a piece on how the Gambia and Kenya are dealing with reduced tourism. In the Gambia, a dramatic drop in tourism was happening prior to COVID-19 due to the liquidation of renowned British travel operator, Thomas Cook, which used to account for 30% of arrivals. Thanks to the leadership and innovation of youth trained in community-based tourism, as well as funding from the EU Youth Empowerment Project and the International Trade Centre in the Gambia, the guides have been redeployed in creating resources and spreading awareness to prevent the spread of the virus.

Tourism makes up a fifth of the Gambia’s GDP, which also means that when tourism is able to return, it is essential that the cultural and environmental sustainability of the nation is addressed. The development of The Ninki Nanka Trail utilises the legend of a dragon that used to live along the river to promote tourism away from just the sea, sand, and sun stereotype, and diversify the Gambian tourism product to benefit local people, cultures, and heritage.

In Kenya, an early negotiation with the government has meant that tour and activity operators who rely on safari and beach holiday tourism have been given a 12-month grace period on debts. Conservation efforts have also been supported by sustainable tourism in Kenya through projects like Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The sanctuary has used tourism income to create the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, the home of the last two white rhinos in the world, as well as the only place in Kenya where chimpanzees can be seen.

The ability of both of these nations to turn tourism into a sustainable force is something that we can all learn from and apply as we look to reopen, restart, and redevelop our own tourist communities.

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