When Saikou Demba was a young man starting a hospitality business, he opened a small hotel on the Gambia coast called Leybato and ran a beach party on a large stretch of gold sand. At the hotel, it is still a comfortable place for guests to sleep under the palm trees and walk down the aisle. But the beach is not. At high tide, Demba estimates it could be 5 or 6 meters above sea level.
He says: “The first year was far from over, but it wasn’t easy. “In the second year, the tide was high, but it was good. In the third year, I went down one day and the place was empty — half of it in the ocean. ”
This was in the 1980’s, before most people heard of global warming.
But for Demba, 71, and for many others like him, it was obvious that things were changing. The sea was coming up year by year, and the shore, little by little, was breaking.
Now, Leybato has lost not only its shores, but, in great waves, its shores: The sea comes right down to the bottom of the court and overflows the surface. Coastal erosion is clearly evident in the cracked rocks and the exposed roots of the coconut trees. The seagrass that once hid under the sea is gone.
“That grass protected the sea, but it is gone now,” said Demba. “I also saw turtles, big turtles. Now, nothing. We are in a lot of trouble. ”
Off the coast of Gambia, some 30 miles[50 km]the smallest African country, hotels and lodges are experiencing similar challenges. And in a poor country where tourism is about 20 percent of GDP and employs thousands of people, it may not be necessary to cope with it.
“We have already learned the Covid-19 lesson. Tourism is the most important” in the world, “said Alpha Saine, front office manager Kairaba Hotel, one of the top two in the country.
After a long period of disappearance during the epidemic, European tourists have begun to return to The Gambia, although the numbers look very low. Saine hopes that Covid will soon “become history.”
Corporate risk due to climate change, however, is extremely risky over time, and no one seems to have found a solution that works for all.
Along the coasts of Kairaba and Senegambia Hotels, the heart of the Gambia’s “smiling coast” tour operators, a stone barrier set to travel several hundred yards along the coast, prevents waves from penetrating. When the waves subside, the shoreline is still large – and in the Covid years, nothing is left – except for big waves and small sand.