- …as GTA hangs hope on future infrastructure for a slice of the market
The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) is seeking to prioritise infrastructure as the major attraction in the country’s quest to position itself as the preferred Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) hub in West Africa.
Indeed, the global MICE tourism market – which forms part of business tourism – is expected to reach an estimated US$1.3trillion in the next seven years.
The GTA however said it is leveraging opportunities in the sector as most countries are returning to normalcy from disorders of the pandemic, and is hosting in-person meetings and conferences – albeit within the COVID-19 safety protocols.
Director of MICE at the GTA, Betty Akua Kobi, speaking to the B&FT said the GTA’s priority is to keep the country busy as a destination from January to December 2022 with the facilities that are presently available, while waiting for future projects that will be marked as key MICE facilities.
Currently, the National Theatre and Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) have the capacity to host 1,500 and 2,500 delegates respectively. Mobile facilities and structures – including the Grand Arena and Fantasy Dome – within the AICC can host between 3,000 to 5,000 people at full capacity.
However, Betty Kobi said the forthcoming National Cathedral and reconstruction of the Ghana International Trade Fair Centre in Accra will be the game-changers in the country’s MICE tourism landscape. “The new Trade Fair Centre should be ready soon with event centres which can compete with those in South Africa and other countries on the continent. The National Cathedral will also have auditoriums which will host international events to augment the numbers,” she said.
Ghana’s efforts to grow MICE and opportunities available
Ghana, over the years, has taken minimal advantage of the sector to supplement tourism’s contribution to GDP. Though over one million visitors were said to have visited Ghana in 2019 for the ‘Year of Return’, the number of people who actually came to the country for MICE was not segmented.
But Senior Expert on Communications in Africa at the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Kojo Bentum-Williams, told B&FT that Ghana must leverage its safety, security, good business ethics and transport connectivity in the sub-region to position itself as the hub for business tourism and MICE destination.
Though revenue from MICE in the global tourism space has reached more than US$800billion, according to the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, Africa’s share has stood at 3.3 percent while Europe’s stands at 55 percent. It is estimated that close to 40 percent of business and conference delegates return to those destinations as leisure tourists, bringing their families with them.
MICE in other countries and growth projections
South Africa with its Johannesburg Convention Centre-Expo Centre, with a capacity of 20,000 people, has been making strong statements in taking a slice of this business tourism market. That country alone has about four convention centres ranked among the top-10 on the continent.
Equally, Allied Market Research (AMR) – a US-based business-consulting firm, reported in September 2021 that the global MICE industry, which was pegged at US$805billion in 2017, will reach an estimated US$1.3trillion by 2028; growing at a CAGR of 21.3 percent from 2021 to 2028.
MICE is a big revenue earner for countries: including South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Ethiopia, Egypt and Morocco. In South Africa, there are around 211,000 national, regional and international MICE events hosted each year. Rwanda also increased its revenue for MICE from US$74million in 2018 to US$80million in 2019.
With the MICE industry forming about 10 percent of the overall tourism sector globally, it is reported that MICE delegates spend about five times regular tourists’ expenditure. The GTA, nevertheless, believes that the growth in infrastructural investments like the upcoming new Trade Fair Centre, coupled with technological advancements, are expected to present lucrative opportunities for the industry in Ghana.