Hotel managers in Gambia say that without the beach the tourists will not come.
But the beach in front of the country’s two landmark hotels is disappearing pretty fast. It is a very serious state of affairs for a country that derives a major percentage of its income from tourism.
European tourists lie baking themselves on sun loungers outside the five star Kairaba and its neighbour Senegambia, a hotel so famous an area of town was named after it, but the patch of sand on which they lie is getting narrower each month.
Five years ago the government embarked on a US$20 million 'beach replenishment' project. Head of coastal and marine environment at the National Environment Agency, Momodou Suwareh explained how the government identified the areas of greatest economic importance threatened by erosion:
'The hotel areas were targeted first,' he said, frankly.
Part of the work involved bringing sand dredged from the seabed to the beach in front of Kairaba and Senegambia creating a new shore more than a 100 metres wide.
After just two years half the sand had disappeared and now it is back to the state it was in before the work with just 26 metres between the hotel’s fence and the high water mark.
Mr Suwareh said he was disappointed with how quickly the sand has been lost but for the hotels struggling to compete for tourists the situation is increasingly urgent.
'We are hopeful the government will do something,' says Landing Singhateh, front office manager at the Kairaba.
He thinks a solution is in the pipeline, but says that if the state does nothing about the beach, then perhaps the hotels have to work out a solution for themselves.
'We use the beach in the adverts for the hotel,' he says. 'If there was no beach people would not come.'
Judging by the importance of tourism to the country’s economy it seems the government will be compelled to act, but long term solutions to the problem of coastal erosion are both expensive and elusive.
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