BY Yunus S. Saliu All Africa
Experts drawn from various member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are currently meeting in Banjul for the Eight Tourism Ministers’ Conference with a focus to explore ways of ‘fostering wealth creation through tourism development.’
The event kicked-off proper Wednesday with an experts or senior officials’ meeting that will prepare the grounds for the Ministers’ Meeting on Friday where recommendations or resolutions are expected to be adopted. In his remarks, the assistant secretary general – Economic Affairs of OIC, Hameed A. Opeloyeru underscored the importance of the meeting, and noted that tourism has indeed received the primary attention of this global Islamic body.
Opeloyeru, who spoke on behalf of the OIC secretary general, Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, said the exchange of services in the tourism sector have contributed to the growth and development of the economies of the 57 member countries of the Organisation. He underscored that part from its economic growth potentials; tourism has also remained very significant in the promotion of solidarity within the Ummah and international community.
Opeloyeru expressed his sincere appreciation to the government and people of The Gambia for the warm reception and brotherly hospitality accorded all delegates and for the convivial atmosphere provided for the excellent conduct of the meeting. He also thanked the outgoing chairman of ICTM, the Islamic Republic of Iran for uniting efforts in ensuring that the activities of tourism in the Islamic world attained greater heights. In the vein, the OIC assistant SG also congratulated Destination Gambia for the confidence it has received from member states in its capacity to steer the course of tourism in the next two years.
He stressed the need for the participants to use the Banjul meeting to take stock of the progress made in the implementation of the Framework for Development and Cooperation in the Domain of Tourism between OIC member states (2008-2018). This, he said, will enable them determine what has worked and what needs to be improved on in order to achieve rapid progress.
The OIC assistant SG went on to remind that one of the major tasks before the Organisation is the scaling up of their cooperation efforts through improving tourism policy harmonisation, tourism facilitation and development of tourism infrastructure. The agenda for this session, he said, will ensure that they move speedily to fast-track the ongoing projects.
The head of The Gambia delegation, Permanent Secretary Momodou Joof of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, thanked the OIC SG for his support to the country in hosting this meeting. He dilated on the importance of tourism to the destination, which he said, contributes 16 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and as well provides job opportunity for thousands of Gambians.
PS Joof thanked President Jammeh for his personal support to the successful hosting of this meeting, while also recognising the leadership the Tourism and Culture minister, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie and members of the National Organising Committee for a job well done.