Tourism in Ghana – Time to make the gains

Interior of the Elmina Castle
Interior of the Elmina Castle

Tourism enjoys a lot of global attention due to the fact that it generates huge incomes to nations and offers jobs to citizens.

The potential of tourism to transform developing economies and leapfrog them into middle income economies within record times has never been doubted both by economists and politicians.

Advanced countries commit so much money into the tourism industry, they develop it and in return they get the biggest chunk of business travelers who have all the money to spend in these countries.

In recent times, however, developing countries, especially those in Africa have taken to tourism as one of the possible panacea to their economic challenges. Notable among nations that have given priority to tourism on their developmental agenda are Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritius, Kenya, Egypt and Singapore. The likes of Mauritius, Kenya, and South Africa have invested so much into developing tourism and they are making gains.

We are told that Ghana earns almost $1.1bn USD in foreign exchange earnings from tourism, contributing four percent to the country’s GDP and creates about 220,000 direct jobs across the country.
The United Nations also believes in tourism and therefore adopted the World Tourism Organization on September 27, 1970. After its adoption, the organization was renamed United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Subsequently, September 27 is celebrated yearly to draw attention to tourism and its role in the socio-economic development of nations and to ponder the way forward for the global tourism industry.

The WTO encourages the implementation ‎of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, with a view to ensuring that member ‎countries, tourist destinations and businesses maximize the positive economic, ‎social and cultural effects of tourism and fully reap its benefits, while minimizing its ‎negative social and environmental impacts.‎

The organisation’s membership includes 160 countries and territories and more than 350 Affiliate ‎Members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations ‎and local tourism authorities.‎
UNWTO is committed to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, geared ‎toward reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development.‎
Over the decades, tourism has experienced continued growth and deepening ‎diversification to become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. ‎Contemporary tourism is closely linked to development and encompasses growing number ‎of new destinations.

These dynamics have turned tourism into a key driver for socio-‎economic progress. Today, the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, ‎food products or automobiles. Tourism has become one of the major players in ‎international commerce, and represents at the same time one of the main sources of income for many developing countries.

Unfortunately, however, according to UNESCO, several World Heritage Sites that are very important tourist sites have become vulnerable to climate-induced environmental change. Among these are Ghana’s 36 Slave Castles situated along the country’s beaches which are facing the risk of sea erosion. Fort Prinzenstein at Keta has already fallen a victim and has disappeared some 14 kilometers in kakum1to the sea.

Moreover, most of our beautiful hotels and resorts sitting along beaches are all at risk. Massive flooding sweeping away our farms are major causes of concern. Maldives, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations has been complaining of climate change induced threats to the island’s resorts and hotels.

Although, Ghana is blessed with pristine beaches stretching over 500km, these beaches are left undeveloped while portions have been turned into places of convenience. Habitual littering is also anathema to tourism development.

Ghana is renowned for her hospitality but when it comes to providing services the country is not up to it.

Tourism is a very competitive business and tourists demand value for money.

It thrives on good roads, potable water, electricity and effective telecommunications apart from the attraction itself. Unfortunately, most if not all, of Ghana’s attraction sites are undeveloped and the only way to exploit this gold mine is to develop them to meet international standards.

Considering the returns from tourism, it is imperative that it is given the attention it deserves.
Tourism arrivals have steadily increased from 85,000 in 1985 to 530,827 visitors in 2003 with an average annual growth rate of 10 percent. If the Ministry of Tourism’s target of attracting one million tourists annually is attained, tourism will rake in $1.5 billion with a corresponding 300,000 jobs in the sector.

To use tourism to help shape the economy of Ghana the Tourism Federation, an umbrella group of over 20 Trade Associations was established as an advocate of the private sector.

It’s role of  was to coordinate the Tourism Private Sector to achieve expansion and growth, as well as lobby the Government to make needed policy and regulatory changes.

Everyday business is subject to various taxes and levies, and items imported for the purpose of promoting the industry are sometimes charged duties as luxury items even though they are basic necessities for those operating in the tourism industry.

WTO statistics shows that Ghana’s visitor numbers continue to grow, but the growth is not up to the country’s full potential. Ghana remains a high cost destination and the cost of doing business in Ghana remains high. Frequent analysis of foreign direct investment indicates that the country has under-performed with very low levels compared to other African countries.

Presently, the cost of doing business in the tourism sector remains high due to levies, taxes, custom duties and inefficiencies in the public sector, where the institutional framework for the public and private sector involved is fragmented.

The legislation governing the institutional framework and doing business in the country is archaic and does not allow the private sector to function in the best cost effective manner. This is because, responsibilities are spread over a number of ministries, departments, agencies and local governments who lack the human and financial resources to carry out their jobs as expected.

In spite of the numerous castles Ghana has to her credit, much has not been done to protect and maintain the legacy that was left by those who developed them so as to attract potential tourists which could yield so much for the country’s economic development.

Ghana alone is said to have 36 Slave Castles out of the 52 in the world, yet little or nothing has been done to market these historic monuments. Senegal has only one “Goree Island”, and yet over 1,800 people visit the place every day.

Egypt, Kenya and The Gambia rank tourism as number one pillar of their economy. Mauritius was into sugar production, then to textiles and now depends on Tourism.

South Africa is hosting the World Cup in 2010 because they want to showcase the tourism potential of the nation.

Ghana is indeed sitting on a “Gold Mine” considering the country’s huge tourism potentials, and to derive economic benefits from the sector, it is necessary to properly promote the sector. The Slave Castles and the heritage sites can be utilized to bring economic benefits to the country.

By Innocent Samuel Appiah
Email: [email protected]

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  1. priscilla ewuradwoa arthur says

    please give us a clear picture about the effects of tourism

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