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Bentsifi’s Tattle - A holistic approach to tourism

Bentsifi’s Tattle - A holistic approach to tourism

We really do need a holistic approach towards organising our tourism. Often, in conversations, like we're having here, talking about tourism in Ghana, it's so disheartening when my friends casually dismiss Ghana's progress in the space and begin comparing what they see in movies with regards to how other countries have organised their tourism to ours.


While it would seem like not much is happening, on the contrary, I say a lot is. This group here's response is that what we do here is "concert". Tourism is such a phenomenon. It alone, well organised, can carry a state or country to economic success. It is the one industry whose effects can affect every facet of a nation, from health to education to rural development to foreign policy to, name it! 

 And yet, it would seem successive governments fail to appreciate its intrinsic value. So many of its applications are such low hanging fruits which are ignored by ineffectual policies simply because in determining them, the industry is often ignored, not invited to lead the discourse. Practitioners of the phenomena know. And so do the technocrats, but somehow, the cycle just remains. 

In terms of the inbound numbers arriving and the itineraries they embark on, there are many top-notch tour operators, who employ qualified tour guides who go to lengths to bring their itineraries alive enough with such accurate information and knowledge, in their commentary, and this helps to enliven the experience for the visitor who is looking to be immersed in the authenticity of the GH experience. 

That's the kind of tourism that engages. And a lot of that happens here, to our merit. There's a Tour Guide Association whose members hold the nation's image together, delighting many inbound visitors with their experience and expectations of the country which cause them to make it a point to return. 

Today's tourist's profile is not of people who just want to sightsee, but people who want immersions! This is what is bringing in the numbers. And here's where policy makers need to focus and drive the direction of our tourism.

There's the domestic tourist too, who has a primary interest to visit any of our various attractions and sites, and expects to pleasure, to have fun, a place to just spread a picnic with friends and family. That's also well and good. They may have paid the entry fees and that little spending collectively adds up. This, however, unfortunately, tends to be the aspect of tourism we understand, and focus on. Hardly would the domestic tourist book a tour guide or competent operator to help plan their itinerary to authenticate visits to attractions so they can get a more holistic appreciation.

Admittedly, most of our attraction sites suffer from the syndrome of non-imagination, and a lack of innovation. You'll find that, what you experienced there, say, five years ago wouldn't have changed, improved or altered much, to give it some umph when you visit today. This really does make it seem like the industry is stagnant. 

Compound this with the larger challenge of government policies often enacted without the involvement of practitioner inputs, but only that of technocrats and we have the gaping hole we see staring us in our face. 

Like the current 'suggestion' of a "mandatory health insurance policy for non-resident visitors" by the health minister, which came with a proposed commencement date of implementation. 

When you look at the list of bodies and organs that held the discourse leading to the "suggestion", you'll find that the tourism sector was well represented by the Ministry and its implementing authority, but no one from the tourism industry itself. The practitioners, whose perspectives could have better helped to shape the direction of the "suggestion", were absent. 

Among practitioners, who feel that such a policy would impact our inbound arrivals negatively, a few questions are whirling around. 
Which insurance company is underwriting this on behalf of the state? What if the foreign traveller has his personal insurance covered or is covered under another international insurance policy? Are all hospitals public, quasi-public and private able to treat travellers under this new policy? 

Adding on another layer of tax or levy to the already high-priced destination as Ghana could spell doom. As a destination, Ghana's competition are those rather progressive countries that are able to readily waive taxes and levies that invite congresses of people, to come and meet, and experience what we have to offer. But, it would seem, our policy makers appear to be oblivious of this. 

In discussing tourism, and its progress, it is the practitioners who hold the key. The frontline operators, guides and hospitality providers. We must remember that.

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