The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MoTAC) and the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) must be applauded for their hard work that has contributed to an increase in tourist traffic into the country.
Tourist arrivals in the country for last December alone rose by 16.37 per cent to 98,873, showing a strong recovery from 2020 when the numbers were 43,645, representing a 62.52 per cent decrease as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The numbers actually started picking up in 2021 by 94.67 per cent to 84,965 and continued the upward cruise last December.
While the GTA has attributed the rise in tourist arrivals largely to its December in Ghana (GH) initiative, we also believe that the marketing of Ghana to the global community as a peaceful country, a place that is ready to receive people of African descent from the Diaspora and a place to experience diverse cultures, which has been spearheaded by the President, has contributed immensely to that.
If we must strike while the iron is hot, then we must not rest on our oars, but do more to sustain the increased tourist arrivals into the country.
The December in GH, which was part of the Year of Return (YoR) initiative of the GTA to promote the country as a December holiday season destination for Ghanaians living abroad and the African
Diaspora, must be used as the launch pad to achieve this, if indeed Ghana is to become the Mecca for Pan Africanism.
The country is blessed with many indigenous festivals all year through, which can be harnessed and made attractive to the international community so as to pull in guests locally, as well as from abroad, and not wait for only December.
The country is made up of 16 regions, all of which have something to offer to attract tourists.
In this regard, the Daily Graphic calls for a deliberate plan involving all the MMDAs in all the regions to bring this into fruition.
We, therefore, find it reassuring that the GTA is already considering leveraging other peak months so that throughout the year, Ghana will be on the map for travellers.
However, while exciting programmes such as Afrochella, Little Havana, Taste of Ghana, Afro Nation, YouTube Creators Festival, Westside Carnival, Rhythms on da Runway, Roverman Productions
Festival of Plays, Countdown Africa and Adina Conference, drew the crowds, it was very evident that we should improve on the security of patrons as well as vehicular and human traffic flow during such shows.
For instance, the second day of Afro Nation had to be ended abruptly over security concerns, as the numbers of patrons continued to swell by the minute, to the disappointment of revellers.
If we are looking forward to having more guests in town all year round, then we must beef up our security and ensure effective traffic control. Also, by allowing more people in, we are indirectly importing foreign cultures, so we must do well to convey to our guests what hurts the sensibilities of Ghanaians.
There is also the need to invest in infrastructure and grant tax rebates to vendors of top-of-the-range musical equipment and lighting to prevent embarrassing experiences as happened at some of the outdoor musical concerts.
We urge that the authorities grant special concessions to organisers of events sanctioned by the GTA.
Further, the hospitality industry must consider discounted rates but improved services, especially during peak periods, to enable more guests to afford their services.
We also urge the GTA to effectively supervise the ‘Air BNB’ business which has come to add to the hospitality business and also ensure that all in the sector meet internationally accepted standards at all times.
Indeed, when it comes to receiving guests from our airports, taxi and car hiring services are the first port of call.
We, therefore, urge proper training of both professionals and amateurs assisting guests and giving them the proverbial Ghanaian welcome when they arrive, instead of finding ways to rip them off.
Once a guest feels welcome into our country, he or she will not only want to come back, but become an ambassador who will encourage others to visit.
We admit that there is a lot to be done to make Ghana the number one tourist destination in Africa, the reason we urge the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, National Security, the Ghana Police Service, the Ghana Immigration Service, the Ghana Airport Company Ltd, the Art Centre Traders Association, event organisers and traditional catering services, among others, to effectively collaborate to make that happen.