The Gambia wants to encourage “quality tourists” to visit the country instead of just UK grannies looking for sex, which has become a serious problem in the country.
The tiny West African country has been turning into an increasingly popular sex retreat for older British women since the 1990s, when Thomas Cook started selling budget cheap package holidays to the former British colony.
But Thomas Cook went bust in 2019, and tourism to The Gambia reduced significantly. Though sex tourism, on the other hand, didn’t stop.
Speaking to The Telegraph, director of the Gambia Tourism Board Abubacarr S. Camara said officials have had enough, and want tourists that go to enjoy the country and its culture, “not tourists that come just for sex.”
He said the government is targeting higher-end tourists and millennials as opposed to older Brits.
Tragically, the incentive for Gambian men to sleep with these old ladies, who also flock from countries like Holland, Sweden, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, is largely a lack of jobs and poor wages in the country. The men, known locally as “busters”, wander the beaches looking for elderly women, who they hope will take them to Europe for a better life. Speaking to presenters on YouTube channel The 77 Percent, one Gambian man said children as young as 9-years-old are being preyed on by tourists.
Also, a documentary on the UK’s Channel 4 network reveals how the West African nation has become a hotspot for older European holidaymakers, usually women, looking to show romantic love to young men in exchange for money and/or gifts.
Despite this, some UK women are not ashamed of their sexual getaways. Speaking on This Morning in 2019, sisters Jackie Simpson and Julie Ramsey, in their 60s, explained how they have travelled to Gambia over 15 times, fallen in love and had multiple boyfriends, “who all say they’re 36”.
An ever-increasing phenomenon and vice in the tiny nation, an elderly White female tourist who spoke with British journalist, Seyi Rhodes, on the Sex on the Beach documentary, attested to how easy was to hook up with the young men, who are locally referred to as “bumsters”.
“It’s paradise,” she said. “You could have a different man every night.”
Alka, a 32-year-old Gambian who is married to a Belgian woman twice his age, told Rhodes some of the women come to the coastal nation in search for love while others come for flings – referring to the latter group as “holidaymakers.”
“Sometimes they’re not good tourists, they’re holidaymakers,” he said. Asked to elaborate, Alka said: “Someone who comes to f**k you and leave you.”
“It really, really hurts me,” Alka added, referring to the sex tourists and how wealth disparities puts some of the cougars in positions where they can prey and take advantage of the young men. According to the young Gambian, it has never been about money for him.
“I don’t like it. I am looking for a good relationship,” he claimed, adding that the women he has been with always offered him money though he never asked for it.
Though some of the local men have also been accused of exploiting the older women on the grounds that they are vulnerable, a local rapper told Rhodes it goes both ways.
“Why don’t the headlines be that the older women were exploiting the younger men?” Killa Ace, who is outspoken on sex tourism in the country, asked. “The young Gambian following her is probably desperate for an opportunity, and the party on the other side is also desperate for something.”
There have been stories of elderly women who claimed they were tricked into marriage by young Gambian men and then abandoned after emptying their accounts. However, Alka, who revealed his 65-year-old wife sent him around $70,000 to build a house for them in Gambia, debunked that assertion.
“Many men?” he asked. “Those are the people that spoil the name of Gambia.”
Writing about the documentary in a feature for iNews, Rhodes said he has learnt “not to judge” both parties after his experience and interactions.
“Some of the people I met might look like they fit neatly into a box – ‘sex tourist’, ‘scammer’ or ‘victim’ – but once I’d taken the time to understand them I could see that they’re were all works-in-progress,” he wrote.
“From the woman who got engaged to a man she’d known for three months to the 34-year-old man who says he’s proud to be engaged to an 86-year-old. People don’t always know if they’re looking for love, sex, money or power. In reality they’re all interlinked, and you can only see that by diving into peoples lives and looking – with no judgement.”
The Gambia’s previous dictator Yahya Jammeh is often held responsible for the struggling economy, and was accused of sexual abuse himself. But the country’s new government is keen to reduce the number of both young men and women prostituting themselves as a result of poverty.
They might even be bringing in a new law to make it easier for police to arrest “bumsters” and old ladies who are thought to be in relationships.
Tourists officials visited the the UK in June for conversations with TUI and British Airways about boosting flights from London to Banjul, The Gambia’s capital – though not to encourage anymore sex tourists. – Just One Earth