In The Gambia to teach the Managing Tourism and Conservation in Protected Areas module of our ICRT Masters in Responsible Tourism Management course at the University of The Gambia for our Gambian cohort of students I was asked by the Board of ASSET to lead their review of the last three years and to help them to develop their strategy for the next three years. It is the third strategic reviews which I have chaired for ASSET and a privilege.
ASSET is the home of Responsible Tourism in The Gambia, it has been advocating and demonstrating the importance of Responsible Tourism principles since 2000 when it emerged from a workshop on the parlous state of small businesses and the informal sector. ASSET played a key role in the DFID funded project which did so much to integrate the informal sector and to grow small businesses in tourism; and in 2002 it helped to initiate the Responsible Tourism Partnership which has achieved a great deal, although it now needs to be revived. ASSET has been closely associated with the launch of the ICRT- West Africa, the successful courses in The Gambia which attracted students from Greenwich, Leeds Met and around the world, the ICRT Leeds Met Masters course currently running in The Gambia and most recently the Camp Africa initiative.
Daouda Niang has done an excellent job and significantly strengthened ASSET, he will be moving on at the end of the year and already his replacement Modou Tala Jobe is in post. It will be a well-managed transition under the new chair Nyanya Jagne. Nyanya is ASSET’s second female chair and all of the previous chairs remain actively engaged. ASSET goes from strength to strength and has come of age as a fully functioning trade association. It has stable membership, able staff and has a good reputation with government and the private sector in The Gambia as well as with the Travel Foundation, tour operators, development agencies and donors. Perhaps the most important indicator of its success is that the Reconciliation and Conduct Committee now rarely meets, the business relationships between members and between members and hotels and tour operators no longer require regular intervention.
ASSET celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2010 at a joint event to celebrate ASSET’s birthday and the launch of Camp Africa. Success breeds success and ASSET is inevitably being approached to take on more and more work. It is a sign of the maturity of the organisation and its firm leadership that ASSET recognises that it needs to broaden its sources of income in order to remain independent and has recently turned away two approaches from donors with projects which were not in line with ASSETS principles.
ASSET has demonstrated what a trade association, which brings together sole traders and small scale enterprises in tourism, can do to represent their interests to government, negotiate their relationships with each other and with the private sector, to assist their product development and marketing and through training and advice to make a significant contribution to the development of small business in The Gambia.