Friday, March 19, 2010

31 Hotels Receive GTA Hotel Classification Shields

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-The Gambia Tourism Authority (GTA) has awarded 31 hotels shields for meeting the GTA’s criteria under the new Gambia Hotel Classification System, at a ceremony held on 16 February 2010 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The Gambia Hotel Classification System was based on the International Hotel Classification Standards, and has five categories, from 1 to 5 Star, according to GTA officials.
The criteria is also based on basic standards which are mandatory and optional standards using a points system whereby hotels must obtain a minimum number of points to get a definitive star classification.
In her keynote address, the Minister for Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, spoke of the importance of the Gambia Hotel Classification System to the government and to the stakeholders, adding that the ceremony was a historic moment in Gambian tourism.
She continued: “This is the first time, we are putting in place an internationally-recognised hotel classification and rating scheme that is truly Gambian. It is a great leap in our efforts to develop quality tourism”.
According to the Minister, the Gambia Tourism Master Plan has highlighted the importance of hotel classification schemes in the country, and how it can be beneficial in informing the consumers and encouraging accommodation providers to improve product quality.
“Apart from raising the standards of the accommodation section, it will encourage price rationalization and facilitate the licensing process”, she added.
The presentation of the Gambia Hotel Classification Shield, according to the Minister, shows that the Gambia government places much importance in the drive for quality products in the tourism sector, the Tourism Minister declared.
She, therefore, commended the GTA team and the classification committee for their hard work for over one year with the tourism stakeholders to achieve the recommended standards.
She also recognised “the timely intervention of a true friend of the Gambia, Bert Plusquin the honoraty consul general of the Gambia to the Netherlands and the Netherlands Foundation and his able assistant Dr. Teus Khamgorst as true advocates for quality tourism in The Gambia”.
The Director General of the GTA, Bintou Jobe, said it was in November 2008 that the GTA Board of Directors set up a technical committee to assist the GTA in the implementation of the Hotel Classification System in The Gambia.
She noted that an inspectorate team was also set up within the committee to do the physical inspection exercise of the hotels to ensure compliance, adding that “we find it only fitting to recognise and commend the outstanding team members that went above and beyond their call of duty”.
The GTA DG pointed out that accommodation classification systems are key tourism management tools, acting as guidance information allowing guests to make informed choices about which properties to stay in.
“This system will help tour four operators, particularly those overseas who may not have the in-depth knowledge of properties available and what they can genuinely expect when they reach the Gambia”
“Now that the system has been implemented, the GTA will continuously revise and upgrade in response to new trends on the tourism industry, and for those hotels that want to be upgraded to a higher standard the GTA will be doing a re-inspection at an agreed targeted date”.
According to Ms Jobe, one key mandate of the GTA is to institute quality standards in all aspects of the tourism industry. She added that implementation of a hotel classification system has always been on top of the agenda, but due to the lack of funding the GTA found it a challenge to make it possible earlier than this.
“It took us over seven years of operations and through the kind assistance and support of the honorary consul general of the Gambia to the Netherlands, Bert Plusquin, that the project became a reality”.
Director General Jobe further explained that it was in consultation with the Gambia Hotel Association that the Gambia Hotel Classification System was made to be mandatory for all the hotels operating in The Gambia. It was also agreed that hotels must be issued an operation licence certificate by the GTA, and will be classified every two years.
Ms Jobe acknowledged the contribution of the Gambia Hotel Association. She also congratulated all hotel owners and managers for what she described as “their commitment and dedication to the classification project”
Also for making the sacrifices in terms of investment to ensure that the Gambia can compete at the international level, and that the tourism experience meets and even exceeds visitors’ expectations.
The first four hotels that received 5-star rating were Ngala Lodge, Coconut Residence, Kairaba Beach Hotel and Coconut Ocean Resort. It would be recalled that in December 2009 Ocean Bay and the Sheraton Beach Hotel were the first 5-star hotels and the Sunset Beach Hotel were classified as 3 star hotels, after they were the first to meet the criteria in 2009.

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