The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Barbara Oteng Gyasi, marked this year’s Emancipation Day with wreath-laying ceremonies in Accra.
A delegation comprising government officials, traditional rulers, and members from the Diaspora laid wreaths at the grave-sites of renowned Pan-Africanists W.E.B Dubois, George Padmore and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
Recounting the recent killing of George Floyd, an African-American in the United States, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Tourism Authority, Mr. Akwasi Agyeman urged Africans to embrace their culture and heritage – highlighting the interconnectedness of the African struggle on the continent, Europe and the Americas.
This important event in the country’s tourism calendar was observed this week despite the fact that the Tourism and Hospitality Industry has incurred losses running to US$171million as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The amount was for the period March to June this year, due to lack of operations.
Border closures have prevented the anticipated volume of African-Americans and Afro-Caribbean, scholars of Black history, and the general African diaspora from patronising this year’s Emancipation Day. The government was hoping to build on the success of the Year of Return, a tourism initiative that proved massively successful.
A total of US$1.9billion was generated into the economy through activities related to the ‘Year of Return’, with an increase of over 200,000 for total arrivals into the country. However, the outbreak of the pandemic held in abeyance any thought of building on those numbers with a view to rake in foreign currency to build the country’s reserves.
Figures from the Ghana Immigration Service indicated that the percentage of Americans arriving in Ghana reached their highest-ever rate between January and September 2019, increasing by 26 percent.
The ‘Year of Return’ cemented Ghana’s Pan-African legacy and put a global spotlight on the country, which helped to position it as a historic, cultural and vibrant hub – and the tourism sector was hopeful of building on this success by crafting a new initiative named ‘Beyond the Return, The Diaspora Dividend.’
Sadly, the global outbreak of the pandemic has put all that on hold until the virus is contained, or a vaccine is found to curb its spread.
The tourism sector – more than all other sectors of the economy – has taken a hit as a result of COVID-19, but with the improving health outlook, we are hopeful the sector will soon regain its prominence.