In recent months, calls on media to promote tourism has intensified. The latest to add his voice is The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mark Okraku Mantey. He stated that the tourism sector, one of fastest-growing industries in the country, needs media support to sustain progress. The sector contributed US$2.1billion to the economy in 2021 and was estimated to have generated about US$2.3billion by the end of the year 2022, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors. Against this background, Mr. Okraku said the support of the media is needed to highlight key tourist attraction sites across the country so as to attract more tourist, both internal and external.
Mr. Francesco Frangialli, the former UNWTO Secretary-General once expressed the view that, modern day tourism is highly dependent on media reporting. I agree with him because, a vast majority of travel decisions are made by tourists who have never been to their anticipated destination. Many of the travellers around the world today are making their travel decisions on their own with little or no help from tour operators. To make these decisions they use information from multiple media sources which include the print and electronic not overlooking the social media. Tourists usually decide on the destination first, based on what they have heard or seen from the media. With many Ghanaians using social media means sites like Tik-Tok, and the others must be used to pave the way.
The media today has evolved into a multi-faceted force that has become an integral part of our life, influencing almost everything we do. The media is no longer confined to one way communication. Using available technology and social media, we can now communicate and interact with one another anywhere on planet earth instantly. Today information virtually has no barriers thanks to this media explosion.
The role of the media in promoting tourism should not be limited to only the traditional media such as television, radio, newspapers, magazines etc.
The focus of media should be about promoting the following good practices;
- Protection of the environment and minimizing negative social impacts of tourism.
- Generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities through the multiplier effect.
- Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage and promoting the world’s diversity.
- Providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
While the media is to contribute positively to the development and growth of the tourism industry, there have been occasions where the media has adversely affected tourism in several countries including Ghana.
A rejoinder to foreign newspapers and other news outlet who do not carry favorable news about Ghana is necessary. We all can attest to the fact that any negative stories affected tourism in Ghana and the continent as a whole. But, should all the blame be attributed to the foreign media alone? What about the local media in Ghana? Why don’t we have an African centered media house from where most African media houses will take their news feed. Currently, most if not all our international news are taking from foreign sources.
Bench Event conducted a research on doing business in Africa. The first question asked was; what is the biggest influence in your opinion of doing business in Africa? It was reported that Media accounted for 17%, Family and Friends 6%, Business partners 28%, Firsthand experience 46% other (please specify) 3%.
Question two was about those who have not/never done business Africa. It was reported also that the Media accounted for 71%, Business Partners 14%, First-hand experience 14%, other 1%
The above research findings showed that for companies who had never done business in Africa, 71% were influenced by the media. The point I’m making is simple; irrespective of the hard work of government, the Ghana Tourism Authority, all the various stakeholders and newspapers like the Business and Financial Times etc, the bad reportage by reckless media houses will thwart all the positive efforts. The media must keep telling the positive stories about Ghana and fight all negative news from foreign media.
When the negative news happens, they must be circumspect in reportage. The UNWTO has many documents and reports on how to report negative news. Media practitioners who don’t know must eat their humble pie and learn. After all knowledge is power. These negative news reportage affect international arrivals as well as foreign direct investment. In stark contrast, if a destination in Ghana is portrayed as unsafe no tourists will ever dream of visiting the destination in question.
On the other hand it is important to mention that there are also examples where the media directly helped destinations effected by disasters to bounce back. A classic example was the 2002 bomb blast in Bali which was a direct attack on tourism, killing 202 people. The impact was devastating in a place where 25% of regional GDP depended on tourism. However public media stepped in, and started a continuous dialogue with the Indonesian Government. They publicized a series of steps taken by the government to address the issue, how the evidence was investigated to capture the bombers, how government officials met the families of victims and shared their losses. The world was reminded that Balinese people have a gentle and religious outlook, and this played a key role in the recovery of Bali’s image as a safe and charming tourist destination. In order to show that Bali had recovered, the government stimulated domestic tourism. The media showed the world that hotels, beaches, shopping areas and other tourism attractions have returned to normalcy. These efforts helped rebuild tourism in Bali. During the last 3 decades.
It is my hope that the media will help promote tourism by visiting tourist sites and helping expose these sites to the public.
Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is also the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a destinations management and marketing company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected] Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations.