A representative of the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV Ghana), Mr Nick Beunders, observed on Thursday that the expected growth of tourism in the Central Region which is perceived as the “tourism heartbeat of the nation,” is “flawing”.
He stated that although the region has a comparative advantage, its tourism and investment potentials have not been maximized and warned that other regions which are getting ready to compete in the sector will overtake the Region if nothing was done to reverse the trend.
Mr Beunders was speaking on the topic “The future of tourism in Ghana” at a tourism forum to solicit views from stakeholders in the sector on how to promote the tourism sector in the Central Region.
It formed part of activities of the Central Region Agro-processing and Tourism Fair (Central Expo 2010), organized by the Central Region Development Commission (CEDECOM) to promote trade and investment of the two sectors to help stem poverty in the Region.
More than 150 exhibitors, financial, research and industrial institutions are participating in the one-week fair which has on display artefacts, handicrafts, textiles, locally made footwear, bead accessories and agro-processing products.
He regretted that the vast economic potentials as well as the social and environmental impacts of tourism have not fully materialized due to inadequate protection of natural and cultural assets.
Mr Beunders noted that tourist attractions are predominantly concentrated on the coast, while the inland is also very rich in resources but they are yet to be fully maximized.
He said when tourism thrives, it will foster sustainable development in the region, maximize local economic benefits to further reduce poverty, conserve natural and cultural identity, as well as improve the quality of life of the people.
On measures to ensure a thriving tourism industry, he called for strategies to nip the emerging sex tourism in the bud, while hygiene and sanitation be improved and local cuisine well packaged to meet international standards.
The Region’s road network should further be improved and an airport built for the Region, while tourism festivals should also be promoted
In a presentation titled “Tourism development – achieving an impact in job creation, a private sector operator’s perspective”, the Managing Director of Elmina Bay Resort, Mr Ben Idun, said tourism development is an effective means of achieving economic and social development.
He said it is also an avenue for to employment creation, income generation and poverty reduction, particularly in rural areas, and stressed the need to prioritize tourism.
Outlining some practical solutions in employment creation, Mr Idun mentioned among others the need to support existing businesses, the creation of cultural centres and the fostering of internal collaboration between local firms, stakeholders and local government.
Participants during the open forum suggested that professionals should be employed in the hospitality industries, especially in the area of customer service.
Illegal operators should be “flushed out” because they are “killing the business”, the participants suggested, and called for the development of a website to promote tourism in the Region.
The Acting Executive Director of CEDECOM, Mr Spencer Taylor, who presided, gave the assurance that the CEDECOM board as well as other committees will take the necessary steps in developing the Commission’s strategic plan document.