Feature: The effect of COVID-19 on beaches

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Operators of beaches in the country may be licking their wounds whiles wondering why beaches remain closed when bars and restaurants have been allowed to operate during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Some may be wondering if social distance, wearing of nose masks and all other safety protocols cannot be implemented at our beaches. It is a fact that lots of our drinking bars are accommodating large gatherings.

Could it be the case that the number of people wishing to visit the beaches could be controlled and limited to some few visitors? One may argue that countries that have opened their beaches have had the challenge of controlling the numbers attending and thus observing the COVID-19 protocols thus it serves us right keeping them closed.

Others may argue looking at the effect on the businesses and outdoor recreation such as beach football which is now gradually gaining some popularity in Ghana.

The La Beach Resort for example operates a range of restaurants whose clients are mostly those working in and around La.

Patrons of these facilities used to relax by the bars and restaurant while enjoying the breeze emanating from the ocean.

Should La Beach Resorts and other beach resorts who operate bars and restaurants remain opened since these businesses are allowed to now operate?  Per the current directives if bars and restaurants located at the beach are allowed to operate, then, irrespective of where they are located, be it in town or at the beach, they could remain opened.

Likewise, as hotels are currently operating, could it be that those located by the beach can open their beaches to their guests as long as they will adhere to the protocols? If the guests insist on relaxing at the beach whiles observing social distancing, and the hotel management allow them, could they be in violation the directive from the President of the Republic? The GTA must clarify some of these issues.  In any case these directives as we all know are for the good of the country. We need to stay healthy otherwise we can’t enjoy all the beautiful attractions around us.

The continued closure of beaches may also be due to the fact that during the restrictions and lockdown, Ghanaweb came out with a news report on Sunday 12th April 2020 regarding some revealers seen enjoying themselves at a beach near Chorkor. For now, these revealers may enjoy themselves elsewhere.

The closure of the beaches may still be impacting on the fortunes of the tourism industry in this COVID-19 era.

The continued closure may eventually lead to deterioration of the beaches since they are not making money and maintenance could be an issue. Beaches are supposed to be cleaned if they are to attract tourist seeking the 3s i.e. Sea, Sand and Sun. Many tourists who live in the temperate and the artic zone will seek destinations that offer some good sunshine when planning their holidays. Countries lying in the tropical zone then become the preferred destinations to meet their need. One place where they can enjoy the sunshine they seek is at the beach.

Destinations such as Ghana are then placed to help satisfy these needs. It is therefore very important as a country that we take advantage of the many economic benefits and work hard to make Ghana the preferred destination for beach tourism or bathing tourism in West Africa and eventually Africa.

We face a lot of competition from neighboring countries nevertheless if things are done right we can achieve this objective. It is also important to note that countries such as The United Arab Emirates which was once a small fishing village has over the last 50 years developed rapidly and its beaches and sunshine have been one of the main driver of their economy  led by Dubai which is the preferred destination for many tourists.

At the beginning of the New Year some English football teams moved to Dubai to enjoy some sunshine and refresh. Can we one day also be a preferred destination for European teams? Again, it is worth emphasizing that the success of a tourism destination is highly reliant on the quality of its tourism product.

The tourism product is based on available resources in the destination. The quality of the sea or ocean is a very important determinant to the success of beach tourism. Beaches that are not clean nor the sea quality that is not clean will not be the most preferred destination for international tourists

Destinations around the world are opening including beaches. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation recently confirmed in its seventh edition of the UNWTO “COVID-19 Related Travel Restrictions: A Global Review for Tourism” that an ongoing trend towards the gradual restart of tourism can finally be noticed in several global destinations although many continues to remain cautious in view of the development of the pandemic. UNWTO reported that a majority of 53% destinations around the world have now started easing travel restrictions introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Nations specialized agency for tourism carried out a research and analysed restrictions up to September 1 and reported that a  115 destinations (53% of all destinations worldwide) have eased travel restrictions, an increase of 28 since July 19.

Among the destinations, two have lifted all restrictions while the remaining 113 continue to have certain restrictive measures in place.

The report also includes key data on the health and hygiene infrastructure in place at destinations, alongside analysis of the rate of notifications of new COVID-19 cases.

With the help of the analysed UNWTO has determined factors that are influencing destinations’ decisions to ease restrictions. According to the report, destinations that eased travel restrictions generally have high or very high levels of health and hygiene infrastructure as well as a comparatively low COVID-19 infection rate.

Moreover, it has been found that 79% of tourism destinations with advanced economies have already eased restrictions while only 47% of destinations have eased travel restrictions in emerging economies. 64% of those destinations which have eased have a high or medium dependence on air as a mode of transport for international tourism arrivals.
Meanwhile, the report also shows that many destinations around the world are extremely cautious about easing travel restrictions they introduced in response to the pandemic and some have passed severe measures in an attempt to keep their citizens safe. 93 destinations (43% of all worldwide destinations) continue to have their borders completely closed to tourism, of which 27 have had their borders completely closed for at least 30 weeks.

The report also states that more than half of all destinations with borders completely closed to tourism are being classified as the World’s Most Vulnerable Countries.

They include 10 SIDS (Small Island Developing States), one Least Developed Country (LDC) and three Land-Locked Developing Countries (LLDCs).

More than half of destinations with full restrictions still in place are also highly dependent on aviation, with at least 70% of their tourist arrivals coming by air, causing significant connectivity impacts for their citizens and economies.

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General, UNWTO said in his statement that coordinated leadership and enhanced cooperation between governments means tourism is slowly but steadily restarting in many parts of the world. He said that the starting of ease of travel restrictions is also opening the doors for tourism’s social and economic benefits to return.

He also shared that while remaining vigilant and cautious is highly important, authorities are also concerned about destinations with ongoing full travel restrictions, and especially where tourism is a lifeline and economic and social development are under threat. Operators of beaches are hoping that, as more and more destinations reopen government should consider their plight and ease restrictions at the beaches with enhanced safety measure whiles adhering to all COVID-19 safety protocols.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism 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)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations.

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