Collaboration, synergy and packaging were the common expressions that ran through the conversation when the Ghanaian business delegation met with its counterpart in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, in a forum on how to forge ahead with a unified front.
While Rwanda has emerged strongly as a leisure, convention and investment destination in Africa, Ghana has been on the march ahead of the curve for many decades, for which it can avail its expertise and propositions in a collaboration with the East African country, which is on a mission to deliver unimaginable experience to tourists and investors.
The Ghanaian delegation is in Rwanda to explore business opportunities and to collaborate with partners from that country to encourage trading between them.
The delegation comprises hoteliers, chefs, travel and tour operators mostly members of the Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF), agribusinesses and other entrepreneurs and public trade and tourism promotion agencies.
The Rwandan High Commission in Ghana; the Rwandan Development Board (RDB), a one-stop shop for trade, investment and tourism; and the Chamber of Commerce in Rwanda supported the visit.
Both sides, each made up of public and private sector personalities, stressed the need to work together and encourage trade and tourism across borders.
The two parties also agreed on the need to drive international tourists to the two countries by packaging the experiences of both as one unique product, dwelling on the strengths of each of them as a unified force rather than counting on a country's individual strengths.
Speaking on tourism potential, the Director of Project Development and Investment at the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), Mr Benjamin Anane-Nsiah, said the interests of both countries were aligned as the top 10 tourism earners for Ghana were identical to those of Rwanda.
“What COVID-19 has thought us is that intra-African travel is no longer a luxury. The market is there, latent or even ready. The barriers and obstacles are all being removed; there is no visa between Ghana and Rwanda, and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is in place,” he said.
There was also a burgeoning middle class with disposable income that goes to Dubai, Cape Town and is eager to explore other places, which Mr Anane-Nsiah pointed out should be courted for Africa's survival instead of looking elsewhere outside the continent.
That, he said, would give the continent a longer term spread so that countries would not easily be hit by market fluctuations.
“I think this is the right moment for both of us, and fortunately we know each other, we're not strangers,” GTA's Director of Project Development and Investment said.
Mr Anane-Nsiah expressed optimism about the poise exhibited by the private sector in Ghana, and urged both sides to collaborate to package the experiences, while the public sector offered the necessary assistance for success.
The Chief Tourism Officer of RDB, Ms Belise Kariza, said in spite of challenges faced by the tourism and travel sector, the industry had always been resilient due to collaboration such as the one being forged with Ghana, which, she said, provided the opportunity for future partnerships.
She noted that the African's desire to travel throughout the year presented an opportunity for the industry on the continent to recover.
Ghana's arrivals to Rwanda has grown to 3,544 in 2019 from 925 in 2010, a feat Ms Kariza said manifested an enormous potential for closer collaboration between the two countries.
The Director-General of the Chamber of Tourism in Rwanda, Mr Frank Gisha Mugisha, called for a framework that would enable tour operators to market and sell Africa as a package rather than marketing the potential of each destination.
“It will really be interesting if we build a framework agreement where we will be the stars in implementing the AfCFTA,” he stated.
The President of the Ghana Tourism Federation, Ms Bella Ahu, expressed optimism that the partnerships and collaborations would bolster both countries and the entire African continent as a more attractive destination to the competition.
A section of the business community in Ghana and Rwanda, especially those in the hospitality industry, have agreed to collaborate and forge partnerships to boost the travel and tourism sectors of both countries.