From Our MD
Keep up to date with all the latest information from Chris Rowles our Managing Director at The Gambia Experience.
Chris Rowles - Managing Director
Giving Something Back
Posted on June 14, 2013 by Chris Rowles
I’ve spent longer in The Gambia than ever before over the last year, this being our 25th anniversary. To commemorate this, we provided funds for over 25 innovative projects which are dramatically improving conditions for the Gambian people. Many projects are run by individuals introduced to The Gambia as customers of ours, who fell in love with the country, returned year after year on holiday, then also wanted to ensure that tourism benefited the country – something we wholeheartedly agree with.
New, quality accommodation is hard to come by but this year I discovered Leo’s - a lovely new boutique hotel which is a great addition to our programme. There should be other possibilities later in the year to help accommodate the growing number of tourists: British visitor numbers remain strong, and Dutch and Scandinavians are discovering in greater numbers what the British have known for years - that there is nowhere closer offering reliable winter sun, an excellent range of hotels and restaurants, no time difference, and genuinely friendly, English-speaking people. Established, good quality hotels are now virtually full during winter, therefore we strongly suggest that you secure the holiday of your choice early – most of our brochure prices remain the same as last year and we still only ask for a £95 deposit.
Whether it is your first or 25th visit, travelling alone or with a group, we look forward to welcoming you to The Gambia.
25 years in The Gambia
Posted on August 16, 2012 by Chris Rowles
The 2012-13 season will, remarkably, be our 25th in The Gambia. It’s a strange prospect to sit and reflect on those 25 years and how our relationship with the country has developed and solidified and just how much has changed. In those early days there was no tarmac on the roads, no streetlights, the airport was little more than a shack by a runway, and the resort areas barely existed at all.
Yet in essence, the allure of The Gambia – those things that make it such an attractive year-round destination – hasn’t changed at all: its relative closeness to the UK (only 6 hours), the beautiful climate, and most of all the friendliness and genuine welcome of The Gambian people.
The Gambia also remains a very good value for money destination. Our cheapest holiday in our 1987 brochure was £292, which with the rise in inflation would be over £675 in today’s money. Additionally taxes on flying have gone from virtually zero to about £120 per person, and jet fuel has increased by a factor of 6.
One of the biggest changes that I’ve noticed over the last 25 years has been the increase in the range and the quality of the hotels. We featured just 6 hotels in our original brochure (4 of which are still with us), now there are more than 20 and the quality improves with each passing year – especially with our Luxury and Unique collections which were but a dream back then.
So we look forward to our next 25 years in The Gambia and wonder what other changes will come, both within the country and within the tourism industry. Whatever may come, we’ll always look to our core values which have remained throughout these 25 years – to provide excellent holidays, first class customer service and share our love for this incomparable, unique African destination.
The holiday season is upon us!
Posted on Nov 16, 2011 by Chris Rowles
One of the first things I noticed on my recent trip to The Gambia was the newly-air conditioned arrivals area of the airport at Banjul. As anyone who has been to The Gambia will remember, standing in the line for immigration and baggage reclaim after the long flight, and usually having come from some fairly cold weather at home, can be quite a sweaty experience. It’s not perfect but it was certainly a good deal cooler.
Arriving in the resort area, I was struck not just by the beautiful weather but also by how bright everything looked – the hotels, especially, looked very alluring; and on visiting them it was great to see how ready and prepared everyone was for the coming season. We’re very pleased for the first time to be offering the Omakan Hotel and it was great to meet our first customers here – we’re sure this is going to be a very popular hotel going forward as it manages to provide something new and luxurious while remaining quintessentially Gambian.
Another new property for us, Sitanunku Lodge, is really starting to come into its own, as well. This collection of lodges on the banks of the river Gambia is set in a truly beautiful location, the first on the north bank of the river, and the gardens here, now lush and bountiful, are really a sight to behold. Sitting with a cool drink in the restaurant at Sitanunku watching the sun set across the water was a real highlight of the trip.
New Program Launch for 2011-12
Posted on July 26, 2011 by Chris Rowles
On one of my recent trips to The Gambia I decided to follow the growing trend for multi-centre holidays (it's so easy to do in a small country) and stayed in four different hotels. This has encouraged me to find some more quality lodges and individual properties to twin with a beach hotel - although they can also be enjoyed for a longer stay - which you'll find in our exciting, new Unique Collection. I also talked to as many customers as possible. It was fantastic to hear comments such as "our rule is we never go back to the same destination twice - but this is our third visit'' and "we were looking at the Caribbean, but are so glad we came here" and "we had no idea that The Gambia had so much to offer".
Flying continues to be a challenge. Unfortunately we have not yet been able to find an aircraft to operate our Bristol flights and the ever-increasing cost of fuel and government taxes means that all flights are costing more, however we are still able to offer our popular Premium Class service from Gatwick for the same supplement, and twice weekly for much of the winter.
Whilst some tour operators try to disguise price increases by removing meals and baggage allowance, I believe these should be included. Similarly, the Airport Development Fee of €20 is now included in our holiday price so that unnecessary queues at the airport on departure are avoided.
Whether you are returning with us again and requesting the same room in the same hotel, seeking a new experience in a different property, or considering The Gambia and Senegal for the first time, we hope that you will enjoy reading our brochure and please visit our website for more photos, video clips and reviews. Even better, talk to our staff, all of whom know The Gambia and Senegal inside out.
Flights to The Gambia
Posted on April 22, 2011 by Chris Rowles
We are delighted to announce that we will be working with Monarch Airlines for our summer 2011 programme. This summer we will be offering flights from London Gatwick to Banjul on a Tuesday with the service commencing on the 3rd May. Unfortunately we are unable to operate a twice weekly service this summer, in large part due to a reduction in suitable aircraft availability (two of our major suppliers of charter aircraft have ceased trading in the past 12 months).
We continually review our flight and holiday pricing and endeavour to deliver fair prices for our products. Over the past two years the cost of fuel has more than doubled, coupled with continued increases in government taxes, now costing almost £100 per seat (plus an average of £80 extra for Banjul originating clients). As a business we have a duty to cover our operating overheads such as staff salaries, office costs, advertising and of course the cost of the flight/taxes/fuel/hotel etc. Our single aircraft operation this summer also means that, under CAA regulations, aircrew now have to spend a whole week being paid & accommodated to operate our single flight. These factors combined mean that ticket prices have had to increase, as it is impossible for us to absorb all these cost increases.
The summer period in The Gambia is not a period of high demand for holidays and other UK tour operators drop The Gambia in the summer as they do not see it as a viable (profitable) destination, preferring instead to make money in the Med. Across the travel industry as a whole there is much higher demand to charter aircraft in the summer than there is in the winter months. Inevitably the laws of "supply and demand" come into play and the airlines will charge Tour Operators a higher price in summer than for winter. From our perspective we would welcome other UK operators in the summer months as it would raise awareness of how great The Gambia is in the “green season".