Don’t come looking for toy boys…you’re giving us a bad name: Middle-aged British women are being warned to stop holidaying in The Gambia because tourism bosses want to attract ‘QUALITY visitors’ instead
- The tiny West African nation has become a haven for bored women looking for naughty fun
- But The Gambia plans to overhaul its reputation as a sex spot in favor of ‘quality visitors’
- Sex tourism took off in the 90s with low-cost package tours to the former British colony
- And it’s built a cachet as a place for older British women to let off steam
The tiny West African nation of The Gambia has become a haven for middle-aged and older women looking for a sassy alliance with readily available toy boys.
But the country now wants to revamp its reputation as a sex hotspot for mature women from Britain and Europe to appeal to less amorous travelers instead.
“What we want are quality tourists,” said Abubacarr Camara, director of the Gambia Tourism Board.
A Briton told Channel 4 that The Gambia (pictured Kololi Beach) is ‘heaven’ because ‘you can have a different man every night’. The country’s tourist board is trying to change its representative
Heidi Hepworth (pictured on her wedding day) ditched her husband Andy (left) for a Gambian taxi driver after he started talking to strangers on Facebook The couple had nine children together
“Tourists who come to enjoy the country and the culture, but not tourists who come just for the sex.”
Heidi, 44, is pictured with her new Facebook beau Mamadou Jallow, 30, a taxi driver
Officials have sought to steer the conversation away from the sex trade to focus on Gambia’s wildlife and cultural attractions – the country is home to more than 300 tropical bird species and two Unesco World Heritage sites.
Sex tourism took off in the 1990s with low-cost package tours to the former British colony.
And the country has earned a reputation as a place where young black men are willing to go all out with older white British women willing to foot the bill.
Some relationships between the toy boys and the women are said to be arranged online before they arrive – the toy boys then meet the women at Banjul International, The Gambia’s only airport.
A lack of jobs and low wages in The Gambia, which has a population of 2.5 million, means the financial rewards of developing a relationship with a tourist are a strong incentive.
Known as ‘bumsters’, the young men scour the white sand beaches in search of older women who also come from Holland, Sweden and Germany to meet them. The ‘Senegambia Strip’ near the capital, Banjul, has become a Benidorm-type hotspot for lonely British pensioners.
Grandmother, 48, who left her husband for a taxi driver, 34
Grandmother Heidi Hepworth shocked her husband and nine children when she fell in love with a Gambian toyboy she met on Facebook.
She ended her 23-year marriage to Andy, 48, and started a relationship with Mamadu ‘Salieu’ Jallow, 34, which led to visits to Africa, a conversion to Islam and projects of marriage.
Ms Hepworth, 48, from County Durham, has started wearing a hijab and her youngest daughter has also started attending school in a head covering.
In 2018, she said: “No one ever imagined this would last, but Salieu and I love each other and are planning to get married.
“I miss him so much when I’m away from him but contrary to what some people have said of me, I’m a good mother and my kids come first.”
She plans to build a house in Serekunda for £12,000 for herself and Salieu, who runs a taxi business.
Her children, aged seven to 30, are split after the split, with their three eldest standing behind Andy.
But industry pitfalls have led to stories of romance fraud, visa scams and polygamy.
And efforts have intensified recently to attract younger, wealthier tourists seeking a higher quality winter vacation.
Tourism officials visited the UK this summer and met with British Airways and tour operators in a bid to increase flights between London and Banjul.
The African nation’s government is reportedly backing a move to clean up its tourism trade by considering laws to crack down on bumsters and officials have called on the UK government to stop British ‘grannies’ exploiting young Gambian boys.
Lamin Fatty, national co-ordinator of the Child Protection Alliance, told the Daily Telegraph: “The High Commission has shown some commitment. But it’s not just about commitment, we also need financial and technical assistance.
“There could be much better collaboration between the two countries to put solutions in place.” The seedy liaisons were featured two years ago in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary called Sex on the Beach. One woman told the show that the country was “heaven” because “you can have a different man every night”. Tourism is the fastest growing sector of the Gambian economy and accounts for around 20% of GDP.
It is an important source of foreign exchange and an important source of employment. The Gambia gained independence in 1965 and is known worldwide as the “Smiling Coast” thanks in part to its welcoming people but also thanks to its position on the map, which resembles a smiling mouth.
Most tourists visit during the winter with packages.