We can make more from tourism
World Tourism Day, a day set aside by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to raise awareness of tourism’s actual and potential contribution to sustainable development, was marked around the world yesterday on the theme: “Tourism and the digital transformation”.
For years, tourism has been one of the largest industries and currently a substantial source of foreign currency and investment for many countries. Following from this, the global tourism agency maintains that responsible and sustainable tourism can play an important role in eradicating poverty and meeting the millennium development goals and, subsequently, the sustainable development goals.
Despite the assertion that tourism can have a very positive effect on poor countries, developing countries, especially those in Africa, still lag behind in visits, while the developed world leads in tourism figures. For instance, whereas in 2017 there were 1.323 billion international tourist arrivals worldwide, Africa could boast only 62.3 million of the numbers, while the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe recorded 208.7 million, 323 million and 670 million, respectively.
The Daily Graphic reasons that indeed, tourism has the potential to reduce poverty in developing countries, then there is more to do to catch up with our developed counterparts. And as we celebrate World Tourism Day, it is incumbent on Ghana to critically look at how it can position its tourism industry to rake in the needed foreign exchange.
The country has not lost sight of the fact that many tourist centres are in the countryside. But, ironically, they are places that have the least developed infrastructure. The roads there are in terrible conditions and there is no access to mobile telephony and the Internet.
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This tells us one thing — tourism does not happen in a vacuum; it needs to be integrated with other sectors of the economy to make it functional and robust. The narratives of a tourist’s visit should be such that he or she will carry something that will make him or her come back or encourage others to visit.
Recently, a Daily Graphic team that visited the Mushroom Rock at Wulin near Jirapa was left stranded because there was no tourist guide to give basic information about the site. A few minutes later, the team saw children approaching the members, only to beg for alms. This is common in many tourist communities and that is the people’s understanding of tourism — to beg visitors to part with money. This practice tends to drive visitors away from us.
The Daily Graphic thinks there is a lot to do if we want to receive the visitors to generate the needed revenue from the sector. First, we should take advantage of the hospitable nature of Ghanaians to educate them on reception for visitors. They should also be equipped with information on the so that they can help visitors with it.
There may also be people who would want to visit the country but there are no diplomatic missions where they can acquire visas. In this wise, we suggest an extension of the visa-on-arrival facility to more countries, as has been done by East African countries and side with the Tour Operators Union of Ghana that the government consider issuing e-visas as an incentive to draw more tourists into the country.
Africa lags behind in tourism expenditure and it is part of the reason other regions of the world are far ahead of us. Ghana should, therefore, invest in the sector, which can propel our development.