Tourism ministry looks to virtual events for keeping ‘Beyond the Return’ momentum …inaugurates Steering Committee

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The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture is hoping to hold some virtual events this year to sustain momentum for the ‘Beyond the Return’ agenda launched by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as a follow-up to successful execution of the ‘Year of Return’ initiative last year.

According to the sector minister, Barbara Oteng- Gyasi, some activities have been slated for last quarter of the year, with the belief that by then the havoc being wrought globally by the COVID-19 pandemic will have been subdued.

“We are hopeful that toward end of the year when the COVID-19 has subsided and we know where we are with it, in the last quarter we can pick up some of the activities for Beyond the Return,” she told B&FT at the inauguration of a steering committee to guide implementation of Beyond the Return activities.

“For now, we will be organising virtual activities including panels to discuss with people from various sectors the pillars which Beyond the Return stand on. They will discuss and come up with implementation strategies. This is what we are going to do in the interim while we wait to go in big next year. But we are hopeful that we can have a few activities in last quarter of the year,” the minister said.

The inaugurated Cross-Sectional Steering Committee is expected to work with the Ghana Tourism Authority on implementation of the Beyond the Return project. The campaign is part of events to commemorate 400 years of the first enslaved Africans arriving in Virginia, USA.

Ms. Oteng-Gyasi, touching on the committee, noted that unveilling of the committee was slated for March, just after the nation’s Independence Day celebration – but had to be pushed back due to measures for containing spread of the virus.

Beyond the Return, as you know, is the follow-up to the successful ‘Year of Return’ – Ghana 2019 project which firmly positioned Ghana as the preferred destination for the African diaspora and gave a tremendous boost to tourism, spreading its benefits across many businesses within its extensive value chain.”

She expressed confidence that the team assembled to serve on the Steering Committee will carry out their assignment with dedication and commitment; adding that the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture is also poised to give them all necessary support to successfully execute their assignment.

The Project Coordinator, Akwasi Agyeman – who is also CEO of the Ghana Tourism Authority, recounted successes of the ‘Year of Return’ and indicated that COVID-19 has provided a new challenge to implementation of the project, but the Authority is poised to work with other stakeholders to ensure success.

The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) has disclosed that it spent about GH¢6million in promoting the ‘Year of Return’ campaign, and raked in some US$3.3billion into the economy.

Beyond the Return is based on seven pillars, namely: Experience Ghana; Invest in Ghana; Brand Ghana; Celebrate Ghana; Pathway to Ghana; Give Back to Ghana; and Improve Tourism and Heritage Assets. Representatives from 10 institutions who constitute the Steering Committee will ensure the campaign’s successful execution.

Those institutions include the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture; Ghana Tourism Authority; Diaspora Affairs-Office of the President; Ghana Investment Promotion Council; PANAFEST Foundation; African American Association of Ghana (AAAG); Ministry of National Security; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ghana Police Service; and Ghana Immigration Service.

The Committee is co-chaired by Lawyer Kwame Boateng – a Board member of the Ghana Tourism Authority, and Akwasi Awua Ababio from the Office of Diaspora Affairs, Jubilee House. Other members are Yofi Grant (GIPC); Dr. Sayibu Pabi (Deputy Commissioner of Police); Khadijah Iddrisu (Ministry of Foreign Affairs); John Agbeko (Chief Director, MOTAC); Dentaa Amoateng; Prof. Esi Sutherland (PANAFEST Foundation); Jessica Ayivor (AAAG); Ekow Sampson (GTA); Ben Anane Nsiah (GTA); Roberta Dawson Amoah (GTA); Lawrence Coffie Azumah (Ministry of National Security); Edith Arhin (Ghana Immigration Service); and Amy Appiah Frimpong (National Theatre).

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