The President Atta-Mills led administration is putting in place a national marketing goal for the tourism sector since it is critical to the realisation of the Better Ghana Agenda, Mr. John Tia Akologo, Minister of Information, said on Monday.
He said the tourism sector could potentially grow more rapidly with improvement to the regulations and by creating an enabling environment, mentioning that the sector generated 1.6 billion dollars into the nation’s foreign exchange purse in 2009.
Mr. Akologo, who read a speech on behalf of President John Evans Atta-Mills, at the opening session of the First International Tourism Investment Forum said the strategic geographical location of Ghana, a country closest to the centre of the world, with excellent maritime and air transport access to the global market, made it a strategic transport hub for West Africa.
The International Tourism Investment Forum organised by the Ministry of Tourism with support from the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre aims at attracting more investors to the Tourism Industry in Ghana.
The forum under the theme: “Ghana-Time to Explore: the Role of the Investor in the Tourism Sector”, attracted hundreds of people whose businesses relate to the industry.
Mr. Akologo said: “The democratic credentials of the country have obviously put Ghana in the tourism limelight and this makes the theme for the forum very realistic”.
Emphasising the importance of the tourism sector to the economic growth of the country, the Information Minister said the sector continued to be one of the most important and fastest growing industries of the Ghanaian economy competing with other sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction and transport.
“It is a sector that has a potential to stimulate investment and growth in many other sectors,” he stressed.
Referring to a hotel survey conducted in Ghana, Mr. Akologo said business tourists activities in Accra constituted over half of international tourist arrivals and noted that business and conference tourism in Accra could be much larger than it was currently.
“Business tourism is not inherently pro-poor”, he said and added that there was always an important transfer of resources from the tourists to the poor in the community.
Requesting the investor community to pay attention to Ghana, Mr. Akologo said Ghana Investment Promotion Centre’s Legislative Instrument sought to provide a generous incentive and tax holidays for private investors.
He therefore called on potential investors to consider venturing into the provision of hotel accommodation, construction of cable car facilities along the mountain ranges, operation of luxury coaches and domestic flights among other opportunities.
Mrs. Sabah Zita Okaikoi, Minister of Tourism, said the forum provided a good platform to begin the journey of exploring the untapped and diverse tourism investment opportunities in Ghana.
She said financiers and investors had a wide range of options to choose from and said the tourism sector and Ghana as a whole were all ready for an investment boom.
“It is worth mentioning that the future prospects for the tourism industry in Ghana are very promising despite the challenges of inadequate funding that the tourism sector faces,” she added.
Mrs. Okaikoi announced the introduction of a Tourism Bill currently before Cabinet to promote the needed linkages between tourism legislation and other related laws and to remove bottlenecks in the industry.
“We believe that the bill would ensure that the tourism sector becomes compatible with modern tourism practices world-wide backed by needed funds”, the Tourism Minister said.
Mr. George Aboagye, Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, remarked that the improved macro-economic environment, political stability, the peace and security that we enjoyed as a country had repositioned Ghana as an attractive tourism destination.
Mr. George Ntim, Founder of First Hospitality Group in the United States of America, speaking on the topic: “Current Challenges, new ideas and future direction for the Tourism Industry”, said there was the need for more branded hotels in the country.
He advised hotel owners to market and brand their facilities online to attract more clients.
Mr. Ntim emphasised the need for systematic and regular training for people working in the hospitality industry and urged staff in the industry to respect everybody that entered their facility.
“Respect is a basic hospitality rule”, he stressed.