The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) says it is disappointing to note that apart from the Presidential Candidate of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), none of the seven candidates vying for the seat of the presidency has mentioned the need to develop tourism and its allied services as a tool for job creation and revenue generation for the state.
The authority added that the candidates’ silence over their plans for the sector when elected president after the December 7 general elections confirms the lack of commitment the country and the political elite in particular has towards tourism.
“But this is a sector that can create huge employment benefits and give a lot of revenue to the state when given the needed attention. Tourism is the only sector that employs from the least educated to the highest in the society. One tourist centre can employ a whole community,” the Chief Executive Officer of the authority, Mr Samson Donkor, said in an interview in Accra.
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The tourism industry has for the past few years grown at an annual average of 12 to 15 per cent in spite of the less attention given to it, the deputy CEO of the Tourism Authority said.
If given the needed attention, Mr Donkor said “the sector can overtake oil and gas as the highest foreign exchange earner.”
He disclosed that the sector generated about US$2.3 billion as foreign exchange in the first nine months of the year after bringing in US$2.1 billion in 2011.
The number of visitors to the country has also increased significantly, according to the deputy chief executive of the Tourism Authority, the body that has oversight responsibility over the industry.
“So, if this is happening yet those vying to be president do not see the need to give proper attention in terms of policies to the sector, then I wonder.”
“What is even interesting is that these are the same people who travel around the world and to countries where tourism is their premium income earner yet they do not see the need to be committed to the local tourism industry,” he lamented.
Apart from Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom of the PPP who mentioned his party’s commitment to develop strategic tourist attraction centres to meet international standards, create jobs and increase government revenue, Mr Donkor said “none of them has seen the need to develop the sector. They are just not saying anything about what they and their parties will do to help exploit the numerous advantages in tourism. Yet they talk about the need to create jobs for the people and collect more revenues to finance infrastructural development,” Mr Donkor noted.
He disagreed with suggestions that the authority was not opening up to the politicians and the political parties in particular, explaining that the Tourism Authority need not lobby politicians before they see the need to develop tourism and exploit the advantages thereof.
He, however, called on the various political parties, especially their presidential candidates, to include the sector in their respective economic policies for the country.
He was grateful that the new Tourism Act 2011 (Act817) had opened up the mandate of the authority and created more resource avenues from which it will use to market the sector abroad while developing tourist centres to meet global expectations.
The new act transformed the tourism body from a board into an authority, created the tourism fund and gave it more powers to license conferences, beaches and other tourist centres in a bid to help exploit the various prospects that exist in tourism.
Story: Maxwell Adombila Akalaare