Banjul International Airport

The Gambia has announced controversial plans to levy a US$40 fee on all passengers landing and departing from the country’s only international airport in Yundum.

The civil aviation border control fee which comes into effect on 15th January 2019 is part of measures being introduced by the government of President Adama Barrow to fund the contract for the provision of the civil aviation and immigration security and E-visa management services.

The fee will also cover the training of airport security officials and the maintenance of the system 24/7, the Ministry of the Interior, in full agreement with the full legislation of the Republic of the Gambia.

The government said the decision to upgrade without delay its system for the screening of travelers  arriving and departing the country through its international airport to ensure the safety of the air transportation industry was due to threats posed by international terrorist groups throughout the region against the safety of local citizens and foreign visitors on arrival and departure to/from the country’s international airport and in order to identify terrorists, criminals, and drug traffickers that would use the airport and thereby affect the safety of civil aviation (international and regional airlines and airports), including airline passengers, airport facilities, and aircraft.

As part of the scheme, the fee will be collected ‘directly by all the airlines operating in the Gambia, from each of their international passengers, both upon departure and arrival, either at the moment of ticket sale or at the issuing of the boarding pass.

Exempted from paying the fee are aircraft crew of international commercial flights, airline staff (ID tickets), children from aged from 0 -2 years, passengers whose transit time does not exceed 24 hours and passengers whose flights are diverted to the Gambia.

Airlines will be task with the full responsibility of collecting and payment of the fee to the civil aviation authority of the Gambia for all tickets issued to international passengers arriving or departing the country.

Criticism

Meanwhile, a former Gambian Trade and Foreign minister under the previous regime of Yahya Jammeh said the fee will have  a devastating impact on the  country’s tourism industry.

“It could kill whatever is left of an industry that faces numerous challenges that include but not limited to product deterioration, regional and international competition from destinations that provide tourists with more choices,” Mr sanneh said.

Writing in his blog, he added: “The tourism sector is struggling to return to its pre-Ebola strength (2014 – 2015) and to add $40 to the price of a return ticket will all but kill the industry. Operator are worried and probably so are airline operators. We have learned that GCAA [Gambia Civil Aviation Authority] was trying to propose a $4 – yes, four US dollars – hike which they are having trouble getting the support of the industry. Government is now proposing a ten-fold increase which make little economic of financial sense.

When one considers that the proposed increase is coming at the heels of the decision by FTI, a major and influential German tour operator, to cancel its 2018 – 2019 Winter charter flights to The Gambia despite previous assurances that it will increase its weekly flights into Banjul. The decision will obviously mean less tourist visitors, unless a competitor finds it commercially feasible to fill the void – a highly unlike scenario.”