Journeying through tourism to achieve SDGs

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Tourism is a major industry that can accelerate global development and tackle common global challenges negatively affecting the promotion and attainment of global goals. Nature has blessed the universe with enough resources to ensure a sustainable world, habitable for mankind and other living things.

Tourism is considered a major vehicle for the promotion and attainment of sustainable development; it is believed to address issues regarding poverty alleviation, social equity and economic growth.

Currently, there are about 1.2 billion tourists crossing borders each year in all parts of the world; tourism has a profound and wide-ranging impact on societies, the environment and the economy. Tourism represents 10% of world GDP, 1 in 10 jobs and 7% of global exports; tourism has a decisive role to play in achieveing the 2030 Agenda.

Tourism can directly impact three of the 17 SDGs: namely SDG 8 on ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’; SDG 12 on ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’; and SDG 14 on ‘Life below Water’. Notwithstanding the above, indirect linkages impact and can accelerate progress toward all 17 SDGs.

The private sector plays a significant role in building a sustainable tourism industry, though there is lack of access to financing by industry players. Government must create an enabling environment that attracts funding from the financial institutions. This can be done through interest rate concessions and agreed repayment terms, among other. The Ministry of Tourism, Ghana Tourism Authority and Ghana Tourism Development Company must liaise with banks and financial institutions to facilitate access to loans in order to ensure a boost for the sector.

Tourism is booming and one of the fastest-growing economic industries; it contributes immensely to job-creation by employing both the youth and adults regardless of their background in terms of education and social status. It impacts the economic condition of families and general economic growth of the country. It again protects nature and the environment while settling the issues of poverty and hunger in society, especially in the most deprived communities.

One sure way of protecting and preserving our traditional and cultural heritage is by boosting investments into tourism and its affiliated jobs. It serves as a source of empowerment for tourist communities, brings rapid development to such areas, increases trade opportunities, and fosters peace and intercultural understanding while promoting cultural tolerance, diversity and inclusion.

Tourism comes with its own vulnerabilities, notable among them being greenhouse gas emissions; however, regardless of this and many other challenges, we have seen and experienced best practices in the world – where leadership have been able to manage their tourism sector to profit from the benefits of nature and man-made inventions and innovations.

And investments in new markets and services, such as ecotourism, is already estimated to be worth US$100billion annually; clearly, there is a share in this for local economies operating in this space. Ecotourism aids community development by providing an alternative source of livelihood for local communities.

Most importantly, ecotourism seeks to conserve resources and maintain sustainable use of resources at all times. The ecological experience and exposure of travellers is firmly assured while we ensure environmental friendliness to nature and human innovations.

The United Arab Emirates, France, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Russia and many other countries each play host to tourists running into many millions every year. This brings in massive inflows of foreign exchange while creating decent jobs, both direct and indirect, for the country.

In Africa, countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana and Tanzania profit most from tourism, with Morocco leading with 12.3 million visitors in 2019 alone. Africa has a wide variety of points of interest, diversity and multitudes of landscapes, as well as the rich cultural and traditional heritage.

Stakeholders and players in the tourism industry must harness the potential that comes with tourism: in as much as we make all the efforts to grow and attract foreign tourists, massive awareness must be made locally to attract domestic tourists and travellers. This serves as an opportunity for domestic tourist to learn about their own culture and tradition whiles they see wonderful monuments/edifices for themselves.

To promote and attain vibrant tourism activity, there is need for an effective collaboration and partnership by all stakeholders. This will help address adverse effects like child pornography and the sex trade for both children and adults; pedophilia activities, exploitation; service-handling at tourist centres and attractions, waste management at tourist sites etc.

The Tourism Act 817 of 2011 imposes a levy that is meant to provide requisite resources for sustainable development of the tourism industry. The levies also go into the Tourism Development Fund. The 1% tourism levy has seen a major default in payment by industry players; this nationwide refusal to pay shows how we do not attach importance to the sector.

The sector ministry and Ghana Tourism Authority must invoke the powers given to them under the Act and LI and embark on a clampdown exercise for all such defaulters. They must be made to face the law and pay. This exercise must also serve as an opportunity to assess the quality standards of such centres nationwide; any compromise on quality control spells doom for the industry and its activities, most especially regarding foreign guests and tourist.

The government of Ghana, in association with the US-based Adinkra Group, initiated ‘The Year of Return’. The whole idea was to encourage and attract Ghanaians/Africans in the diaspora to trace their lineage, come back home to settle and also invest in the economy.

2019 coincidentally marked 400 years of slavery, and presented a golden opportunity to celebrate the end of such a barbaric and inhumane system. The remarkable commemoration of the evil centuries-long episode was set out to position Ghana as a key travel destination, and again to promote investment opportunities in Ghana while fostering and enhancing relationships with the diasporan community.

The festival of events attracted the likes of Michael Jai White, Idris Elba, Boris Kodjoe, Naomi Campbell, Steve Harvey, Cardi B, Ludacris, Rick Ross and many others. There were a lot of memorable events which left lasting impressions of this country in the minds of visitors and their families who visited the country. Footages, images and documentaries were taken of some tourist sites across the country.

TV3 took advantage of ‘The Year of Return’ and collaborated with Steve Harvey on a TV show dubbed ‘Family Feud’ which is airing in over fifty international markets. It is a popular international television show that has been airing since 1976.

Ghana had a total of US$1.9billion in revenue injected into the economy through ‘The Year of Return’ and its associated events. It is estimated to have brought over 750,000 people into the country – with the actual event bringing 200,000 people in 2019. Anomabo saw the inauguration of a tourist centre that is expected to boost tourism in the community.

‘The Year of Return’ saw and attracted exponential media hype, as international cameras from renowned media houses focused on the events and their impact on trade and commerce, entertainment, governance, business opportunities and other investment potentials. There was a boost to local economies – especially for hotels and guest-houses, tour-guides, car rentals and other downstream operations and indirect activities.

Due to the successes resulting from ‘The Year of Return’, a seven-pillar initiative to consolidate those gains was also launched by the Ghana Tourism Authority. ‘Beyond the Return’ is the succeeding initiative to ‘The Year of Return’. After tasting the good fortunes of Ghana, there is a need to continuously promote its tourism and Pan-African heritage as well as brand and position Ghana for economic acceleration and sustainable development. ‘Beyond the Return’ will further deepen economic relations and investments, which will foster socio-economic development.

The Museum and Monuments Board preserves the material and cultural heritage of Ghana, and it must together with major industry players develop pilgrimage infrastructure for excursions. The Board needs to be enacted into an authority and fully resourced to undertake its function. The tag of ‘Ghana – the gateway to Africa’ must be made meaningful through developing and exploiting the numerous tourism potentials and memorial sites of interest.

Any investment into a well-managed tourism sector can enhance sustainable growth and ensure economic and social well-being. Tourism will impact all the 17 SDGs and their identified targets either directly or indirectly. The relevant stakeholders should consider a marketing strategy that creates the needed awareness and seeks to attract potential tourists and travellers. Digital marketing and social media presence comes in handy, since millions of people can be reached through the click of a single button.

The Tourism Ministry should engage the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on such a marketing campaign. They can work through the High Commissions/Embassies to lead the agenda, through the discharge of their functions in their respective countries of work: a display of our rich cultural heritage will attract attention to our tourist centres.

 The writer is an SDG Advocate and Lead Partner SDG Alliance-Ghana, UNDP Library

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ghanasdg Facebook: SDG Alliance-Ghana Tel. # 0244204664

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