– develop and sustain a culture of collaboration to drive momentum
Last Monday evening, 19 December 2022, turned out to be a very refreshing and enlightening experience for many of us, who were privileged to participate in the first (hopefully many more) Tourism dialogues about the state of the industry in Ghana. Learning at the feet of some key industry captains was humbling, exciting, and rivetingly enlightening. Kudos to the organizers for starting this conversation and one hopes that this will continue in a sustained manner
The occasion was a 90-minute conversation on Ghana’s Tourism and economic fortunes themed “Tourism Dialogues #1”. On the panel were some very esteemed personalities namely, Dr. Geoffrey Tamakloe, Acting Director, PPME, Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture; Dr. Esther Akyere Mensah, Senior Lecturer, Ghana Communications Technology University Accra; and Dr. Edward Ackah Nyameke Jr., President of Ghana Hotels Association. The facilitator of this August platform was Professor Kwaku Boakye, a Professor of Tourism, at the University of Cape Coast.
One could observe that the Tourism sector in Ghana presents great opportunities in our quest for economic prosperity. The speakers took turns to unearth the potential available to us and the value we can derive from the sector if we “hit the bull’s eye” in our collective efforts to make the sector viable and highly competitive. We were treated to some key pillars of tourism encompassing linkages in the sector and how we can leverage these, to the state of the industry and notably the effect of the Ukraine-Russia war on our general economic dynamics.
A key question asked was why Ghanaians prefer touring outside to local tourism. It was highlighted that domestic tourism has not been attractive enough to draw in significant traffic. Regarding tourism, the opportunities are immense ranging from transportation, agriculture, and hospitality among others. it was revealed that countries like Nigeria, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada, and a few others constitute the top 10 countries who patronize our tourist offerings in Ghana.
It was further revealed that the private sector collaborating with the public sector can potentially unearth the best out of the sector in terms of revenue generation, business value, and taxation among others. by making our destinations attractive, safe, comfortable, and accessible with strategies to address the competition internationally and deal with some threats such as terrorism and effective synergy between the private and public sectors. That the pandemic dealt a telling blow to the sector goes without saying.
To add to what the speakers posited knowledgeably, I want to share some insights from my personal experiences and perspective as part of this positive conversation to improve the sector and draw in traffic both locally and internationally. First, we must seriously consider adding value to existing attractions. Second, to be exact about the performance of the sector we need some good data (as was indicated by one of the speakers) and an ironclad process for making the data useful in our planning and execution of sector initiatives.
Third, we need to address the governance issues that plague the sector (again a point made in the discussion. Fourth, we must work collaboratively to build and leverage synergy for competitiveness.
Adding Value to increase the attractiveness
To the question of how we can make our destinations attractive, I will bluntly express my opinion here that a key element of this dynamic is how we can significantly improve the customer experience. Yes, we need good management structures, regulatory frameworks, governance, and all the hard interventions that will make a difference. I will add to this conversation by saying that the experience is a critical part of making our tourist destinations very attractive from a competitive perspective.
How we package our services is key to achieving outcomes that will make our tourism destinations preferred to others. mind you in this sector we face international competition therefore we must aim at the highest standards of service delivery to make us stand out. What do people talk about most when they attend Kakum park in the Central Region for example? The scary experience of walking the dizzying heights of the canvas walk and how they felt during the walk.
What will be of interest here is how we provide additional services to make the outing worthwhile. Let me share a personal experience to buttress this point. Years ago, while in the UK I visited a safari park at Woburn Sands a suburb of Milton Keynes and boy did I enjoy the day. On offer was a range of services from a road trip (road safari) to a foot trip (foot safari), VIP experiences, wedding venue hire, opportunities to meet the animals, enjoy leisure activities, and a host of others. see the bouquet of services on offer here, “wompe wei na wope den?”
What is my point here? Let’s add the customer experience to the mix to enhance attractiveness. This means planning the customer journey such that an outing will be a fulfilling variety of different activities to make it worthwhile for example for one to travel from Accra to Cape Coast as a family outing or a tour group. Deliberately planning and delivering unique experiences must be a significant part of the menu so while we debate the hard issues let’s put some effort and energy into crafting and delivering some out-of-world experiences, content is key to this endeavour.
A few years ago, I served as part of a consulting team helping a Tour Agency to develop a marketing plan for their campaign. As it turned out we needed some data to help analyze the flow of visitors to the country through our airports. We were shocked to learn that their data on visitor traffic was managed in silos therefore we were unable to establish very clearly how many visitors were coming in through our ports and in what categories. To be fair there did exist a fair amount of data (perhaps the situation has improved now) but it offered very little value for decision-making.
What data does for us is that it shows what services (touchpoints) customers are using and where and for how long they are using them. This is much easier when the data is online. Therefore, if one needs to follow customer behavior on their site it helps developers improve the customer experience. The sources of this data are vital to improving the customer experience. Every organization will thrive on insights from customers and employees when they regularly ask for and collect feedback. The data feeds into a Voice of customer (VoC) programme allowing you to distill customer sentiments effectively.
Knowing what your customers think and feel is critical to enabling you to identify shortcomings and working proactively to improve the experience. When we have good data we are empowered to collect and manage inventory of current customers highlighting their journeys and gaining insights into their experiences. A Net Promoter Score survey for example will tell us whether customers are upbeat or disappointed with our services. It helps us determine where we stand with our clients.
Furthermore, with good data, we can map and analyze our customer preferences and build profiles to help us understand their needs more intuitively. By putting the data into practice, we are better able to serve them proactively. This is why Amazon can suggest new products to you based on your buying pattern. A hotel where you are a regular visitor should be able to determine a few of your preferences if not all. Your breakfast menu, room setting service levels, and so on should come naturally if you know your customer well enough.
Finally, by measuring customer satisfaction on a (reasonably) regular basis we position ourselves to deliver out-of-world experiences and correct any shortcomings brought to our attention. This empowers us with the capability to distill customer feedback data for insights to act on and measure the impact of the action taken (learning). When we follow through by deliberately addressing opportunities to improve we will be priming ourselves for masterclass service delivery levels.
I share similar sentiments with the speakers on how to manage the sector. It does appear that most of the key initiatives regarding governance, regulation, and standards are all within the purview of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture primarily with very little involvement from the key stakeholders, those who break their backs to keep the sector going. This in customer experience terms is referred to as “navel-gazing”. It will be helpful to develop a strong consultative culture to make the governance of the sector fitter for purpose methinks.
In this regard, I buy into the suggestion that there should be more local involvement in the governance and operations of the facilities at our disposal. A few years ago, I visited Cape Coast with a friend (of blessed memory) and decided to settle down for lunch at a restaurant just next to Cape Coast Castle. In our company was a Nigerian who had taken the trip with us. on reaching the place we were suddenly swarmed by some youths who wanted to sell everything they could to us. My friend and our visitor got very upset feeling intimidated by their persistence.
This is a common occurrence in those areas. Turn this on its head with yet another story. Last year we were privileged to be invited to the Farmers’ day at Cape Coast. The driver we hired (a personal Uber-like arrangement by his good self) was very knowledgeable and as we rode through town he could point out low-hanging fruits which when addressed would improve the experience and in consequence the tourism traffic to Cape Coast.
They ranged from security at ATMs (we noticed one where there were no security lights and according to him was hardly used after hours) street lights, road repairs, and market structures to name a few. This makes the case for the involvement of local institutions (both public and private) as imperative for good governance and best practice. The local people have a better understanding and can be more resourceful in positioning the service offerings in these locations. Plus, it offers a great opportunity for building local capacity and offering employment opportunities for our teaming youths.
One area the discussants touched on was the need for aggressive branding, using every opportunity to brand and promote Ghana and in addition to that supporting the business environment in key areas such as corporate issues, loans, maintenance standards, regulation, and taxes. This calls for an effective public-private partnership model to drive a sustainable culture of excellence in the sector. If we are to develop a competitive tourism sector we will need all “hands on deck”. The participants bemoaned the current practice where the government seemed to be driving everything.
A strong culture of collaboration is needed to step up our tourism drive. Mention was made of how the former Tourism minister the late Jake Obetstebi Lamptey was a driving force during his tenure making sure that all the sector issues were brought to the Presidency. Our tourism sector will be enhanced if we leveraged the experience of stakeholders from public institutions to private operators such as hoteliers, tour operators, chiefs, local authorities, local opinion leaders, and a host of others.
I have told this story before but won’t mind telling it again because of its relevance here. Years ago, I was in Singapore for a short course. We arrived on Sunday thus there was no welcome party for us at the airport, and we were stranded. We went to an information desk to inform the lady of our plight. She then asked which ministry was hosting us, Foreign Affairs we said, she called the office obviously on a Sunday nobody was there but the security officer knew who to contact. So he made the contact and we got to speak to our host on the phone. Problem solved.
To operate an effective tourism sector, we need to deliberately apply ourselves to improving the experience for clients. This calls for aggressive branding and a focus on delivering content to make service offerings unique and memorable.
A typical day out will take you to Kakum National Park where you will experience Sky Walking (Kakum Canopy Walkway) followed by a Tour of the Elmina Castle and slave dungeons. You then proceed to visit the Museum in the Castle and end up at the Door of No Return and a visit to the Male & Female Dungeons. You then end the day with a good lunch at a local restaurant, book into a hotel, and enjoy memorable nightlife all in one package. This will be one big experience replicated in different forms country-wide. Are we collaborating for the “Beyond the Year of Return” event? Let’s draw insightful lessons for the future!
|The Writer is a Change and CX Management Consultant. He can be reached at 059 175 7205, [email protected],