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West Africa Ecotourism Network Maiden Annual Summit Held in Gambia

By Yunus S Saliu

The West Africa Ecotourism Network (WAEN) Tuesday ended its two-day Annual Summit in Banjul, The Gambia.

The maiden Summit of the network commenced on the 6th and ended on the 7th of May, it was held at the Bakadaji Hotel with a dinner for all at Tamala Resort.

Presiding over the Annual Summit, Honourable Abdoulie Jobe, the Gambia Minister of Tourism and Culture (MOTC) welcomed all the esteemed members of the West African Ecotourism Network to The Gambia, The Smiling Coast of Africa.

“On behalf of His Excellency, President Adama Barrow, the government, and the people of The Gambia, I want to, first of all, welcome all of you, the esteemed delegates and participants to this convergence and to The Gambia the Smiling Coast of Africa. Consider the Gambia, as a home away from home as you explore the ecotourism in West Africa.” 

He noted that the occasion was convened to deliberate a very important theme of ecotourism designed to avail participants of the golden opportunity to attend informative master classes and network with like-minded tourism stakeholders from across the continent with a view to cross-fertilize ideas and perspectives for the development of ecotourism.

He, therefore, expressed heartfelt gratitude to all the organizers for choosing the Gambia, among many deserving countries to host this magnificent Summit, while noting that the forum could not have been convened at a more appropriate time given that it is coming on the heels of another milestone international convergence “which is the 15th edition of the OIC Summit that just been successfully hosted in The Smiling Coast of Africa.”

Just like the delegates to this summit, Minister Jobe kindly implored all participants, particularly, the international guests to taste the delightful sites and sounds of the smiling coast to discover Africa’s genuine charm, and warm and vibrant hospitality in a tranquil environment.

Introducing ecotourism in the product need, he said, will require all to adopt innovative approaches to the creation of an appropriate tourism eco-system in terms of capacity building, critical skills such as customer care hospitality, basic marketing, e-business cultural diversity training, entrepreneurship, and most importantly financial support to undertake sustainable tourism development.

However, the Minister also dilated on sustainable, responsible tourism and diversification tourism as well as community-based and regional tourism with other pertinent tourism issues.

On a final note, the Honourable Minister thanked WAEN for their foresight and for giving a helping hand towards the successful rolling out of this summit, while urging them to continue to work together as a unit to try to develop and propel ecotourism in the region. 

Ma’am Ola Wright, Founder of West African Ecotourism Network (WAEN) expressed delight in seeing many of the delegates and passionate individuals gathered at the Summit with a shared dedication to the preservation and celebration of the planet’s incredible natural wonders.

She said in a world where the delicate balance of ecosystems is constantly threatened the importance of ecotourism cannot be overstated.

Noting “It’s not merely about exploring exotic destinations; it’s about doing so responsibly, with a profound respect for the environment and local communities,” she stated while reminding the gathering of the immense beauty and diversity that surrounds people – from lush rainforests to pristine coastlines, from majestic mountains to vibrant coral reefs, as the planet offers endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.

“With this privilege comes a responsibility—a responsibility to protect and preserve these treasures for generations to come,” she stated while continuing “we come together to celebrate those who are leading the way in sustainable travel and ecotourism initiatives. We applaud the efforts of individuals, organizations, and businesses that prioritize environmental conservation, community engagement, and cultural preservation in their endeavors.”

Ma’am Loiuse Twining-Ward of the World Bank gave an updated presentation of the West Africa Ecotourism Network.

The West Africa Ecotourism Network organized a two-day Annual Summit supported by the World Bank, PPIAF, WACA, PROBLUE, and WATO.

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Yunus S Saliu

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