Ghanaians have been encouraged to patronise local tourism to boost tourism and help relieve the country from the negative economic impact the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had on the sector.
According to the Ghana Tourist Authority (GTA), the pandemic had impacted negatively on tourism growth, job creation and the livelihood of communities that depended on tourism because in 2020 countries were forced to close their borders and ban international travels as part of measures to contain the ravaging pandemic.
Addressing a gathering to commemorate this year’s World Tourism Day at Wli in the Hohoe municipality in the Volta Region yesterday, the Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Technical Services of the GTA, Mr. Ekow Sampson, said the travel and tourism industry could not return to pre-COVID-19 arrival levels until 2023, as predicted by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), for which reason it was only domestic tourism that could sustain the tourism growth.
"It is said that charity begins at home, so it is important that we patronise what we have well enough to make it attractive and appealing to foreign tourists,” he said.
World Tourism Day
September 27 each year has been set aside as World Tourism Day by the UNWTO to create awareness of tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value and the contribution that the sector can make towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The UNWTO said COVID-19 had had a massive social and economic impact as both developed and developing economies had been hit.
Consequently, this year’s commemoration, on the theme: "Tourism for inclusive growth", was aimed at helping restart tourism to kick-start recovery and growth.
Drop in revenue
Mr. Sampson said Ghana was not spared and saw its revenue from tourism dip, disclosing that in 2019, tourism generated $3.3 billion with 1.1 million tourist arrivals, but that sharply dropped to 355,108 arrivals and receipt of $387.1 million when COVID-19 hit last year.
Also, tourist arrivals and receipt figures declined by 68.5 per cent and 88.3 per cent, respectively, while the average tourist expenditure which stood at $2,931 also declined sharply to $1,090 in the same period.
Additionally, domestic tourism statistics also dropped from about 669,000 visitors in 2019 to about 200,000 in 2020.
Domestic tourism promotion
To improve the statistics, Mr. Sampson said, the industry would rely on the enthusiasm of Ghanaians to visit most of the tourist sites to reduce the gaps created by global travel restriction.
“To whip up interest in domestic tourism, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, with the implementing agency, the GTA, in collaboration with the private sector, the Ghana Tourism Federation, as well as the trade associations, has initiated the Domestic Tourism campaign: ‘Experience Ghana, share Ghana’, to enable Ghanaians to appreciate our tourism, hospitality, arts and culture potential and engender cross-cultural exchange among ourselves as a people, " he intimated.
MoUs on tourists sites
Mr. Sampson said the passage of the Tourist Sites Regulation gave communities with tourism attractions the opportunity to partner the GTA to develop the sites.
That, he explained, offered the GTA, communities, traditional authorities, municipal and district assemblies the opportunity to manage the sites together to promote sustainability.
He said the GTA was committed to the MoUs signed with some communities to develop and upgrade tourist sites in the Volta Region.
Hiking on the Afadzato
In line with the campaign to patronise domestic tourism, the Volta Region has instituted the Afadzato Hiking Challenge to be organised annually to increase the interest of citizens in visiting the mountain to enjoy activities there.
The maiden edition, held this year, saw about 65 people participate, with Bright Lartey emerging the winner by climbing the mountain in a record time of 25 minutes.
Rejuvenating tourism value chain
The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Mark Okraku Mantey, said this year's global commemoration of the day was being held in Cote d’Ivoire on the same theme to highlight the participatory approach to create and ensure wealth creation and poverty reduction and improve livelihood.
He said tourism for inclusive growth meant creating decent employment through tourism and unlocking the potential in tourism through its value chain to create sustainable opportunities for the industry.
Mr. Mantey indicated that the World Bank tourism development project was providing funding for the rejuvenation of the tourism value chain, including hostels, lodges, traditional chop bars, car rentals and traditional fashion industry, and that the story of tourism would soon be different in the country.
Volta Region, Ghana’s tourism hub
The Volta Regional Minister, Dr. Archibald Yao Letsa, noted that the choice of the region for the national commemoration was important, as it was noted for its numerous tourist sites.
He named some of the sites to include ancient European forts, bio-diverse forests, pristine beaches, rolling mountains with numerous waterfalls, a unique monkey sanctuary, festivals, among others.
He said while the region could boast of being the tourism hub of Ghana, sadly the development of tourism in the region had been relatively slow.
He, therefore, called for a collaboration among stakeholders to positively improve the narrative on tourism development and promotion in the region.
"In collaboration, state institutions must be seen to be playing more active and leading roles in areas of identifying, packaging and marketing the tourism potential and also providing certain basic infrastructure, such as roads and electricity network, for the development of the tourism resources,” he said.
As part of efforts to market the region to the nation and the world, Dr. Letsa used the occasion to announce that the upcoming fifth Volta Trade and Investment Fair would take place from November 15 to 28, 2021.
With the #VisitExperienceGhana, he invited players in the tourism sector to visit the Volta Region and participate in the fair.