When the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) presented its third quarter performance for 2017, not a single investment was recorded for tourism.
According to the report, since the turn of 2017, more than 130 projects worth some US$5billion were recorded and yet not a single dollar was recorded in the tourism sector.
The Akufo-Addo-led government rode to power on the back of the creation of jobs for the teeming unemployed youth who were growing frustrated over the lack of job opportunities. Surely, one of the sectors that can easily generate meaningful employment as well as bring in scarce foreign exchange is the tourism sector.
However, over the past few years, it seems the potential and the opportunities in the sector has been lost on successive governments which either paid lip service to the sector or ignored it entirely. When Ken Ofori-Atta presented the Akufo-Addo’s government second budget statement, not much was in there for the tourism sector.
The expediency that is being attached to other sectors and initiatives is missing in the tourism sector. More disappointing is what he recounted as the highlights for the tourism sector in 2017.
Mr. Ofori-Atta said the country participated in eight international fairs including, 51st Internationale Tourismus-Bourse (ITB) Tourism Fair-Berlin, Germany, China’s Outbound travel and tourism market (COTTOM) in Beijing, China and the Akwaaba Travel Fair in Nigeria.
“In 2018, the Ministry will use the international Tourism, Arts and Culture Fairs and fora to pursue robust investment drive. It will also use the Single Portal Window to promote and market tourism,” he added.
All across the country are notable tourism sites which have been neglected with some totally undeveloped and wasting away. Generally, road networks in the hinterlands are nothing to write home about and those leading to some leading tourist sites are worse off.
The road leading to the southern-most part of Ghana, Cape Three Points in the Western Region, is virtually nonexistent and during the rainy season is completely inaccessible. Ironically, that place has an eighty-four-year-old lighthouse and arguably one of the most scenic beaches in West Africa.
Not far-off from Cape Three Points is Princess Town and Butre, all coastal town with finer beaches than any seen in Accra. Yet, these places are a pain to reach and hardly gets any mention in any coordinated marketing campaign. Events organised by indigenes of these areas largely get no support from policy makers, and are left to untrained town folks to manage.
The budget allocation to the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Arts contained in the 2018 Budget is GH¢75.3 million out of which about GH¢18 million is being devoted to capital expenditure. It is interesting to note that the Ministry has 12 departments and agencies.
This budget allocation does not commensurate with the lofty initiatives promised by government.
One of the key promises made was the transformation of the country into a major Meeting, Incentive, Conference, & Exhibition (MICE) centre, as well as on expanding the tourism sector, through investment, innovation, the pursuit of service excellence and meaningful partnerships.
According to the 2016 NPP Manifesto, this will enable tourism to become a major revenue-generating sector that provides safe, memorable and enjoyable experience for tourists. The NPP said, to achieve this, it will aggressively develop tourist sites to bring them to world-class standards, complete with the requisite amenities and facilities.
It said its government will also pursue a deliberate marketing programme to promote our unique historical sites, flora and fauna, waterfalls and other cultural artefacts, and take the staffing of these tourist sites and our hospitality industry as a whole seriously.
Further, to improve professionalism in the sector, an NPP government will partner with the private sector to set up a state-of-the-art hospitality teaching facility, with an operational hotel, classrooms, kitchens, library, and dormitories.
Lastly, then opposition party promised to encourage local communities to take ownership and invest in the sustainability of tourist attractions in their localities. The NPP promised championing a revenue-sharing programme to inject 5% of tourism revenues from fees of well-developed tourist attractions into local community projects.
Well, these are but few of the campaign promises made by the then opposition party to transform the tourism sector. If anything at all, the 2018 budget statement read by Finance Minister does little to set the tone for government to achieve the promises made to the sector.
When Ken Ofori-Atta appeared on the floor of parliament while dazzling with numerous thought out policies and initiatives for other sectors, he could only mention initiatives to promote local dishes among other not too significant initiatives especially looking at the myriad of challenges bedeviling the sector.
Of course, the statement presented on the floor of Parliament was just highlight which all the same makes it sad that the initiative singled out for mention were the highlights for this all-important sector.
It is important Ghana embraces the modern way of managing its tourism sector to bring out the best in it. The NPP manifesto offers some exciting proposals that when fully implemented could set the country on a path of growth.
While participating in tourism fairs and expo is important, it is worth noting that if we don’t put our house in order, such fair will just become avenues for people to get out of the country on sightseeing and sipping on mochas while they populate their social media pages.
Putting our house in order will lead to increase in domestic tourism that will complement the number of international tourists that arrive in the country every year. Tourism deserves government’s full support now.