SINCE the 1990s, The Gambia has become a preferred destination for European women seeking sexual pleasure with available African ‘toy’ boys. It all started when international travel agencies from the UK introduced cheap package tours to this tiny West African country. After more than 30 years of receiving thousands of middle-aged women that arrived with this sex tourism intention, the Gambia government is tired of these UK women. Now, the former British colony is seeking to attract ‘quality’ visitors as the authorities work to change its reputation as a sex tourism destination.
‘What we want is quality tourists. Tourists that come to enjoy the country and the culture, but not tourists that come just for sex,’ Abubacarr Camara, the director of the Gambia Tourism Board told UK’s The Sun newspaper earlier this month.
With high unemployment rates and low wages in the Gambia, which has a population of 2.5million, a relationship with a wealthy Western mature woman is seen as a financial opportunity for these young men.
Known as ‘bumsters’, a term used to describe impoverished young Gambian men who target Western women, they can have their relationships with mature ladies arranged online. Others scour the white-sand beaches looking for older women who also come from Holland, Sweden and Germany to meet them. As The Sun reported, the ‘Senegambia strip’ near the capital city, Banjul, has become a hub for lonely British pensioners.
The Gambia government has sought to focus on the Gambia’s wildlife and cultural attractions – the country has more than 300 species of tropical bird and two Unesco World Heritage sites – to boost its ‘quality’ tourism. However, Lamin Fatty, national coordinator at the Child Protection Alliance, told The Daily Telegraph: ‘The High Commission has shown some engagement. But it’s not only about engagement, we also need financial and technical assistance.’
This summer, the Gambia’s tourist officials have visited the UK. They met with British Airways and tour operators in a bid to increase flights between London and Banjul and attract younger and wealthier tourists who are looking for a higher-class winter holiday.
Tourism is the fastest growing sector in the Gambian economy and accounts for around 20 per cent of GDP.