Visits to tourist centres surge - records highest patronage in history
Patronage of the country’s tourist centres and historical monuments has reached an all-time high with 937,087 visits recorded last year. The figure represents nearly 60 per cent increase over the 588,946 visits recorded in 2021.
The visits yielded a little more than GH¢5.1 million in revenue for the country, from only entry fees which is tiered between GH¢3 and GH¢10 depending on whether the tourists are children, students or adults.
The increase is also a boost to the local economy of the attraction sites and historical monuments across the country.
Data sourced from the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) revealed that the patronage was made up of 795,991 (84.94 per cent) residents and 149,414 (15.06 per cent) non-residents.
The most visited tourist attraction sites included Aburi Gardens, Kakum National Park, Kumasi Zoo, Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle, Shai Hills Reserve, the Accra Zoo, Bunso Arboretum, Prempeh II Jubilee Museum and Kintampo Waterfalls.
The data also showed variations in tourist site visits in the country between 2018 and 2022.
From 635,194 in 2018, the number of people who visited the country’s tourist sites rose to 669,311 in 2019 during the implementation of the Year of Return. However, it dropped to 210,582 in 2020, when COVID-19 broke out and many countries were locked down to curb the spread of the virus.
The attraction centres which benefited from 588,946 visits in 2021 witnessed an unprecedented increase to 937,087 in 2022, with expectations that it will grow further as the first quarter of this year has already recorded 209,975 visits.
The first quarter visits were 35.12 per cent higher than the same period last year.
Main entrance to the Aburi Botanical Gardens in the Eastern Region
GTA’s conscious effort
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, the Deputy Chief Executive in-charge of Operations at the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), Ekow Sampson, attributed the growth to conscious effort by the GTA through multiple communication channels to motivate people to visit the country’s tourist sites and historical monuments.
“We are happy to announce that the tourist sites received 937,087 patrons in 2022, which is unprecedented in the country’s tourism sector,” he said.
“Stay Home, Know Your Country; Experience Ghana, Share Ghana; Destination Ghana and other key programmes have yielded positive results and we are glad that the country has been positioned as a home for diasporans yearning to visit and do business in Africa,” Mr Sampson said.
He explained that while international visitors were locked down due to the pandemic, the only segment of the business that could get the sector going was domestic tourism.
The deputy GTA CEO added that there was the need to intentionally focus and develop the domestic tourism sub-sector to be able to attract foreign tourists to grow the sector.
The deputy CEO noted that due to measures instituted to boost visits to the attraction centres, more Ghanaian indigenes were actively involved in visiting the sites.
“We strategically engaged stakeholders and designed promotional campaigns such as Experience Ghana Share Ghana to attract people to the beautiful historical sites,” Mr Sampson stated.
“As we speak, there are measures in place to extend the Experience Ghana Share Ghana to grow the industry,” he said.
Mr Sampson explained that an analysis of the data showed that 2019 was the only period where foreigners (non-residents) who visited surpassed Ghanaians (residents) and that was because of the Year of Return which brought a lot of people into the country.
He observed that in 2021 the number of Ghanaian residents jumped to 516,990 visits after dropping to 173,988 in 2020 when the pandemic broke.
“Non-residents in 2021 recorded 71,956, while that of 2020 was 36,594 patrons. And so, this means that residential patrons who are mostly Ghanaians are moving around visiting our tourist sites. They have been the segment carrying the business since the outbreak of the pandemic,” Mr Sampson said.
Some Zebras at the Shai Hills Reserve
Fees and charges for the attraction centres are fixed by Parliament.
“We are praying the fees and charges for these centres would be increased a little bit at least for adults because the amounts collected are a little bit small,” Mr Sampson said.
The deputy GTA CEO said increasing the rates would enable the centres to raise more funds that could be used to maintain and upgrade the facilities to meet global standards.
He added that the country would continue to take steps that would attract both international and local tourists to the attraction centres to grow the tourism sector.
The Vice-President of the Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF), Kweku Passah Snr, expressed excitement at the growth in patronage.
He stated that deliberate efforts were needed to incentivise the tour guiding segment of the sector to further boost the visits going forward.
Mr Passah said tour guiding was a major component of the tourism sector in the country.
The GHATOF is the umbrella body with over 25 trade associations within the tourism and hospitality sector in the country.
The GHATOF vice-president called on metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to support tour guides in their respective municipalities by designing periodic training programmes to boost their competencies so that they will be able to market the tourist attractions in their communities.
The Larabanga Mosque
The Manager, Administration and Operations of Adansi Travels Limited, Michael Boakye Dwomoh, stated that the growth in patronage was a positive development for the country’s domestic tourism.
He explained that the rise in patronage was as a result of the combined efforts by all industry players and stakeholders, including the GTA and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, to deliberately grow the industry post COVID-19.
“The growth in recent times is also as a result of the increasing investments in the sector, especially in hotels and accommodation across the country,” Mr Dwomoh said.
He underlined the need for hotel rates in the country to be reduced to be able to help attract more tourists, both domestic and international, adding that would help sustain and further grow the numbers.