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“December in GH” ends on another high note

BY: Graphic Traveler
Akwasi Agyeman (seated right), CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority, with other officials of his outfit and event organisers after a review session to ascertain how well things ran during last year’s ‘December in GH’.
Akwasi Agyeman (seated right), CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority, with other officials of his outfit and event organisers after a review session to ascertain how well things ran during last year’s ‘December in GH’.

The lack of professionalism in Ghana’s hospitality sector has been the bane of the industry for a while. It comes up again as one of the leading criticisms of how visitors who came to the country for the last Yuletide’s “December in Ghana” razzmatazz. Reviewing the work they put in to mitigate some of the more extreme problems that often occur in the sector during the period, the leadership at the Ghana Tourism Authority’s ‘Beyond the Return’ office that has oversight of the December campaign have had engagements with various stakeholders to address the challenges in an effort to improve upon the festivities which comes off again at the end of this year. PaJohn Bentsifi Dadson delves into the nitty gritty of the GTA review and says the outcomes are encouraging.

Of the 122 events endorsed by the ‘Beyond the Return’ office as part of the GTA “December in GH” campaign, nine of them were either cancelled or postponed for various reasons by organisers during th

This week the GTA officially wrapped up another successful season of what it now calls ‘December in GH’ activities. It was quite a treat and this year, the GTA can boast marked improvements on previous ones.

From local residents to Africans in the diaspora and the global community, Ghana’s rich arts and cultural heritage on display were the richer having been included in the 113 officially endorsed events which were monitored by the ‘Beyond the Return’ secretariat and featured in the “December in GH” calendar.

Being listed in this coveted calendar is the ultimate goal of every key event organiser who hosts any kind of event during the Yuletide in all the regions across the country. From traditional festivals to concerts, fashion shows, sporting events, and community projects. “Each occasion included elements that connected with the foundational pillars of the Beyond the Return initiative: Experience Ghana, Celebrate Ghana, Diaspora Pathways to Ghana, Brand Ghana, Give Back Ghana, Invest in Ghana and Promote Pan African Heritage and Innovation,” states the Beyond the Return Steering committee which is grateful to its stakeholders

These include the Ghana Tourism Federation, the Ghana Airports Company, the Ghana Immigration Service, the Airlines Board, the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Ghana Police Service, the National Fire Service, the National Ambulance Service, the Ghana Music Rights Organisation as well as Event Organisers all of whose contributions have ensured a successful campaign this year!

While numbers of visitors who came in to participate in the December events have yet to be determined, many, says the campaign, have expressed compliments for the quality and taste of Ghanaian meals they were served at hotels, and also commended tour guides for their knowledge of tour attractions and sites.

Reservations

One particular area that comes up often for the most criticism is the slow and dismal service in restaurants.

American radio host Charlamagne, who, by the way, speaks rather highly of Ghana, and says he thoroughly enjoyed his time here, “especially the nightlife,” also had some reservations about the quality of service in the country’s hospitality industry.

Speaking on the Brilliant Idiots comedic podcast with Andrew Schulz, Charlamagne mentions how he spent - one time, up to three hours - waiting for food at some restaurant but got used to having to wait so long after a while.

“Let me tell you something about service in Ghana,” he says, “it is the nicest most terrible service you will ever receive. The service is terrible but they are so nice about it that you can’t even be mad.”

There were many other complaints noted in observations by the ‘Beyond the Return’ office, as the office interacted with some of the visitors who came. They range from the different rates charged upon arrival at establishments, the disparity of unfair prices/rates of tours, unceremonious cancellation of reservations and the poor cleanliness of establishments.

In contrast, many guests also felt warmly welcomed by hotel staff and tour operators and complimented some tour operators for their efforts to accommodate their needs.

On the events that took place, the BtR offices notes that there were a good representation of Ghanaian culture & art forms and that vendor stalls were also quite well-equipped with seating, electricity etc… While local and foreign artistes representation was fair, with stages and grounds well set-up, many had low quality of video and sound, marring the experience for revelers.

Though there was a marked increase in the visibility of armed police as well as other security forces, there was also a notable increase in reports of pickpocketing.

Long queues characterised those events that provided toilet facilities on their venues, like Afrochella, and this caused many revelers to complain about their inadequacy. In future, perhaps, many more outlets should be provided. Many organisers also made insufficient provisions for garbage disposal.

One thing a lot of people also complained about was the disruptive ticket redemption processes. It didn’t make much sense that a “QR code” given prior was to be presented at the venue to have it validated for a wristband. Many wondered why punters were not allowed in and out using just the “QR code” once that was validated.

Start times were delayed at some events which led to delayed appearances by headline performances, and with the lack of seating, this made for tedious experience for visitors. Hopefully, whatever accounts for the high prices of vendor stalls and food would be checked to make access more affordable.

The “December in GH” campaign was first launched by the Ghana Tourism Authority during the monumental Year of Return (2019) and is aimed at promoting Ghana as a December holiday season destination. It has, over the years, contributed to an increase in international arrivals, and tourist expenditure, consequently stimulating the economy while bridging the gap between the African continent and Africans in the diaspora.