Whiteley travel company urge over 300 holidaymakers to return home from Gambia due to political unrest

A WHITELEY-based company are planning to bring home over 300 holidaymakers from The Gambia amid growing political unrest in the African nation.

Wednesday, 18th January 2017, 1:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th January 2017, 1:17 pm
Holidaymakers are urged not to travel to Gambia due to political unrest Credit: University of Brighton/PA Wire

Independent tour operator Serenity Holidays runs package holidays and flights to The Gambia as ‘The Gambia Experience.’

The company, which is based at Solent Business Park in Whiteley, are now looking to fly 334 customers home after a 90-day state of emergency was declared in the west African country.

The Gambia is currently in a state of political deadlock after president Yahya Jammeh refused to hand over power after losing an election to Adama Barrow.

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Yesterday, he banned ‘any acts of disobedience’ and now a group of west African nations have threatened to take military action if he does not concede power to his successor by a deadline later this week.

The situation led to the Foreign Office (FCO) to urge Britons to avoid all-non essential travel to the country.

A statement on behalf of Serenity Holidays said: ‘Following the disputed presidential elections in The Gambia there is an on-going political impasse in the run up to the scheduled handover date.

‘Whilst the current situation in The Gambia remains calm, the safety and wellbeing of our customers is of paramount importance to us. As a responsible tour operator we have pre-planned procedures for eventualities such as this and are working with the FCO and airline partners to offer pre-emptive repatriation flights back to the UK.’

The tour operator said that they currently have 225 package holiday customers and 109 flight only customers in The Gambia.

Chris Rowles, the company’s managing director, is currently in the country assisting the resort team.

The statement continued: ‘Our team in The Gambia are currently contacting customers in the resort to inform them of the change to FCO advice and will be providing details of the flight options back to the UK.

Fellow holiday company Thomas Cook, which has branches in Portsmouth city centre, Southsea, Cosham and Gosport have said that they are running additional flights into Banjul, the country’s capital, to bring 985 package customers home.

A spokesperson for the FCO said: ‘The potential for military intervention and civil disturbance is high and could result in Banjul International Aiport being closed at short notice.

‘You should follow events closely, take extra care, keep in regular contact with your tour operator and airline and continue to monitor travel advice and social media updates in case tensions rise as the current political deadlock continues.’

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) estimates that there are around 2,000 people currently on holiday with its members in The Gambia and an additional number will have travelled independently.

A spokesperson for Abta said: ‘The political situation remains fluid and the FCO travel advice will reflect this. Travel companies will continue to monitor the situation and allow cancellations and rebooking for travel dates while the advice against all but essential travel remains in place.’

Customers booked for future travel with The Gambia Experience are advised to check gambia.co.uk/faq for more information.

Thomas Cook said anyone booked to travel with the company to Gambia should call 01733 224 536.