Tourism major economic tool


 -a philosophy of Ken Agyapong

Our ancestors stumbled onto cocoa, devoted all their time and energy to farming, built a few houses, and even purchased a car before passing away. Their children left the farms  to pursue academic laurels and greener pastures, but they still have a daily battle to survive in this modern world.

Ghana discovered gold, bauxite, diamonds, and almost all precious minerals but ‘sold’ our ‘birth rites’ to foreign investors in exchange for peanuts to build a few roads, insufficient dams, schools, and hospitals. Paradoxically, since we gained our independence, we have participated in IMF programmes for an average circle of 3.8 years. The discovery of oil in the Kufuor regime has been short-lived as we continue to leverage our resources for foreign investors. The difficulties we encountered in both pre- and post-colonial times are strikingly similar to those we  experience today. And the thought of it is miserably disappointing.

May we, then, for a brief shift our attention to tourism as a primary economic tool for prosperity?

Our culture and traditions have imbued in us the importance of organizing a befitting burial for the deceased. So, we spend considerable time and resources planning a funeral in anticipation of receiving visitors. The people we have shared love with and established bonds with would want to reciprocate by visiting to console us on such days of mourning. Family members from far and near would come home to express their condolences and sympathies. Our colleagues at work and friends who never knew our houses will visit us. It, therefore, becomes a challenge and  a slash on our incomes in the effort to welcome these huge crowds into our homes. It is fair, however, to assume that some of the sympathizers and the various groups and associations we join would donate a token to defray our expenses. That notwithstanding, the initial investment to set a proper stage and ambiance for the funeral would be incurred.

The house must be clean and probably repainted. Extra chairs must be hired, along with canopies and ice chillers. Apparently, if you have a friend at ECG, you must notify him or her of the date of the funeral to save you from hiring a generator. Nonetheless, the PA system owner will insist on a generator. The washrooms and kitchen should be equipped and clean. The overall environment should be spot-on and befitting, no matter your status in life. This is our cultural orientation. Thomas Bowditch, the head of the 1817 expedition sponsored by the British-owned African Company of Merchants, admired the Ashantis’ preparations and wrote:

‘The cleanliness of Kumase impressed most visitors. The red and white clay of the buildings was frequently renewed and polished during peaceful times, and the streets were swept and cleared at the King’s orders before important visitors were permitted to enter the city’. (Mcleod, 1991). Maybe, the notion of tourism follows the same logic and principle.

Fix your home before you extend an invitation to people.

When nations bid for the hosting of world events like the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games, there is always a huge responsibility on the nation to provide the needed facilities to accommodate anticipated supporters and officials. KPMG senior economist, Frank Blackmore, revealed that prior to the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Africa, South Africa invested billions of dollars and created a favourable climate for direct foreign investment and tourism growth.A survey by African Response found that 96% of World Cup visitors to South Africa said that they would possibly return to the country, while 92% would recommend the country to friends and family as a holiday destination. (Prinsloo, 2010)

The chief executive of the South African World Cup 2010 Organizing Committee, Danny Jordaan, concluded emphatically that “the hosting of the World Cup is about nation-building, it’s about infrastructure improvement, it’s about country branding, it’s about repositioning, it’s about improving the image of our country, and it’s about tourism promotion. It’s also about return on investment, job creation, and leaving a legacy”.

So, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar left a lasting legacy on the small Middle Eastern nation. The Qatari government used the opportunity to make significant investments in infrastructure, tourism, and the sports industry, which, according to pundits, will have a lasting impact on Qatar and the region. A new economic analysis found that Nashville would benefit from $695 million in total economic impact if the city ends up hosting just four matches as part of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, according to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.

This is only one example of football tourism’s significant economic impact. Tourism in general has a diverse potential to transform economies, especially Ghana. And this is the vision of the presidential hopeful, Hon. Kennedy Ohene Agyapong. Speaking on Suncity radio in Sunyani, he underlined strongly that tourism will be his major policy to transform the nation. A foremost policy and a major priority of his administration

Ghana is the showpiece of Africa as the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain independence from the British Colony with a charismatic leader, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity. Ghana is credited as being one of the most stable democracies in Africa, having successfully conducted eight (8) national elections and recording no incidence of a coup d’état since 1992 (GIPC, 2023). Ghana is ranked the second- most peaceful country in Africa and the 38th most peaceful country in the world as per the 2021 Global Peace Index.

Possibly, Ghana could be the most suitable tourist destination in Africa, a conviction strongly held by the Member of Parliament for Assin Central and a presidential hopeful, Hon. Kennedy Agyapong.

According to the Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC), international tourist arrivals increased from 932,579 in 2016 to 1,130,307 in 2019, even though there was a sharp decline as a result of the global pandemic, COVID 19, a year later. However, as of September 2021, international tourist arrivals increased by 18% while domestic tourist arrivals grew by 58%, according to GIPC.

It is the view of the presidential hopeful that the over twenty (20) ecotourism sites, including the Wli waterfalls, Paga slave camp, crocodile pool, Kakum National Park, the Mole National Park, the Nzulezu village, sea turtle conservation, forts and castles in the Central region, and the many cultural festivals in the country could be a major source of foreign direct investment if harnessed effectively and efficiently to attract more tourists.

It must, however, be mentioned that, over the years, successive governments have shown commitment to developing tourism infrastructure and activities.

The recent launch of “#ExperienceGhana, #ShareGhana” to increase tourist sector patronage should be viewed as a commendable innovation that, assuming it is continuously improved, could treble our domestic tourism benefits.

The more ‘we see Ghana, eat Ghana, wear Ghana, and feel Ghana’, the more we create jobs and opportunities for the teeming youth that form over 60% of our population.

It is an undisputed fact that the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” was a major breakthrough in the tourism sector. A total of US$1.9 billion was generated into the economy through the tourism and travel sector in 2019, according to Minister of Tourism Barbara Oteng Gyasi.

Recounting his experience in Spain and Italy and how old relics, colosseums, churches, castles, and national monuments are generating revenues for these countries, Hon. Agyapong believes Ghana could do more by developing the infrastructure needed to support tourism, which is a priority in his future administration.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council Report, the GDP of the African Travel and Tourism sector is estimated to grow at an average rate of 6.8 percent annually between 2022 and 2032, creating 14 million new jobs. How is Ghana positioning itself to maximize the full benefit of this anticipated growth in tourism?

The writer is a popular Kumasi based broadcast journalist with over two decades of experience in radio business. He is the host of Pure FM’s morning show and currently pursuing a Visual Communication Design at the PhD level at the Kwame Nkrumah University Science and Technology.

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