Where did we go wrong? Ghana’s Tourism Sector records worst performance in 1st half of 2017

Tourism, often referred to as Ghana’s 4th highest foreign exchange earner and an industry with so much potential in our continuous development has recently come under the spotlight for very challenging reasons. Statistics released by the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) shows that the tourism sector recorded its worst Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Projects performance in 10 years for the first half of 2017. How did this happen when there have been improved efforts by stakeholders and policy makers to develop this industry? Jumia Travel, Africa’s leading online travel website attempts a post mortem to identify a few possible reasons for the poor performance and what we can do to quickly rectify this situation.
Even before we begin to look at what went wrong, let’s be very clear on the fact that the performance indicators are very technical which include tax calculations, FDI’s, GDP impact assessments and many more. For the ordinary Ghanaian, a poor performance only means fundamental lapses in various structures. Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of this poor performance.

Infrastructure – A surface look at this poor performance takes us to a big issue that is always attended to government after government yet remains a very serious challenge. Infrastructure seems to be improving year on year with several high profile roads and facilities being constructed. Tourist information centres, digital centres, hotels and other hospitality services have been constructed in the past few years giving an indication of progress yet we are still plagued with infrastructural deficits. The main area which is believed to cause this deficit is the area of channel roads leading to most of our ”un-popular” tourist destinations. The main tourist sites in Ghana have been visited so many times that tourists now prefer to see other natural resources and tourist sites when they come to Ghana. Many of the roads leading to these places are in extremely bad conditions. Also since many of these sites are far away from town, accommodation, electricity and good drinking water are necessary to attract foreign tourists. Unfortunately, these are still a bit far from solved which may have contributed to the industry’s poor performance.

Facilities and services – For a country like Ghana, with all our rich natural resources, culture and tradition, it is sometimes unthinkable that we lack in certain basic facilities and services. The problem isn’t even with the lack of these facilities. It is basically with the fact that these facilities may be present but do not function properly. Our banking system is blessed with so many good local and international banks. Many of these banks offer great services to international travelers. However, there have been so many reported cases of foreigners not having easy access to their funds while here in Ghana as well as not being able to use their cards on local ATM machines. Also, modern medical facilities are few which makes it difficult for many international tourists to trust our medical system. Other recreational facilities such as restaurants, cinemas and fun parks are either very few or in bad shape. Many tourists who visit Ghana for the first time are either not motivated to return or may not recommend us to other friends. We may need to fix this if we are to return to winning ways.

Ghana as an attractive tourist destination – In our attempts to identify the reasons why the performance of tourism was low, we look at the number of International tourist arrivals. Unfortunately, this also depreciated in the first half of the year. International tourist arrivals worldwide grew by four per cent between January and June 2016, compared to the same period last in 2015. In its latest report, the UNWTO says international tourist arrivals worldwide grew by 6 per cent in January-April of 2017 compared to the same period last year, with business confidence reaching its highest levels in a decade. Globally, there is an increase and great promise however, there is a reduction in Ghana. Why? A few possible reasons may be our lack of attention to accessibility, proper accommodation, business and our declining tourism image. Image can be fixed and we have a collective responsibility as Ghanaians to fix our image and make this country a go-to destination for many tourists and travelers. Take a look at South Africa for instance. With previous records of chaos, apathy and racial discrimination, who could have imagined that just a few decades after, this country will be the most preferred tourist destination for many in Africa. Now that’s development!

Domestic tourism – One area that is always talked about but hasn’t seen significant improvement over the years is domestic tourism. Ghanaians natural do not like to travel and this is hampering the growth and development of our tourism industry. There are so many tourist sites and monuments in Ghana which are very popular yet many of us don’t know where they are or the history behind them. As Ghanaians, we see tourism as foreigners traveling here and experiencing what we have rather than we spending time and money to explore and experience it. If we do not know what we have, how can we sell that to someone outside. To add up to the revenue from international arrivals, we can develop our domestic tourism to add extra revenue as we all work hard to grow our tourism industry.

Safety & Security – One very basic requirement for countries that pride themselves as great tourist destinations is safety and security. As humans we are attracted to places where we deem safe. Security is very key in growing tourism especially in Africa where wars and chaos are perceived to be abundant. Already, there is a stigma surrounding Africa when it comes to safety and security therefore ensuring that our country is safe and secure is a great step in becoming a viable option for tourists. Hotels, restaurants, apartments, and tourist sites need to enforce strict security for their guests and customers. Crime should be on the low or totally extinct and a general air of safety should be felt by al. this way, we attract a lot more international tourists and our name soars high on the list of preferred tourist destinations in Africa.

Maybe the reasons for a poor performance in the first half of this year go far beyond the above stated. However, we cannot also deny that taking a critical look at these will go a long way in solving some of the problems we face and draw us closer to the vision set before us. Ghana is beautiful, Ghana is amazing. We know this! Let’s build our tourism industry well and sell to the rest of the world.

Author: Bennet Otoo, Jumia Travel

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