Entertainment of Monday, 6 June 2005
Accra, June 6, Graphic -- Dark clouds hang over this year?s PANAFEST and Emancipation Day celebrations.
According to the organisers, high air fares are likely to affect the participation of Africans in the Diaspora in this year?s PANAFEST and Emancipation Day celebrations.
International airlines charge between $1800 and $2000 from USA to Ghana, whereas the same airlines charge about $850 from USA to South Africa, which is a longer distance.
Besides, there is also a great difference in baggage allowance between travellers to and from Ghana and those of other African countries.
While travellers from other African countries are allowed 64 kilogrammes, those from Ghana are allowed between 20 and 23 kilogrammes of free baggage.
The Special Assistant to the Minister of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City, Mr Ferdinand O. Ayim, who disclosed this in an interview, said such discriminatory practices obtained on most destinations.
The celebrations are scheduled for July 22 to August 5, 2005.
Mr Ayim said the stakeholders would make a presentation to the government to make a case for the country, adding that ?we have always been complaining, but this time something serious must be done to produce results?.
He said the situation had compelled many of the participants, especially those from the Diaspora, to withdraw from this year?s celebration, citing high air fares.
Mr Ayim said a tour operator had a shock of his life because out of the 267 pilgrims who had registered with him to attend the celebrations, 140 had had a change of mind due to the exorbitant fares.
He said many individuals and tour operators had expressed resentment at the trend of events which they said was one of the major obstacles to the country?s vision of making tourism the number one foreign exchange earner.
Mr Ayim said some of the airlines were treating Ghanaian passengers and tourists in such a biased manner partly because of the absence of a national carrier.
He said most people preferred the defunct Ghana Airways because it was sensitive to the cultural demands on the Ghanaian traveller, who always carried bigger luggage.
He said most international airlines, oblivious of the travelling culture of the Ghanaian, tended not to assist in such direction.
Mr Ayim cited Malaysia, which was reaping a lot of foreign exchange from tourism because tourists to that country increased by two million last year and ?its 12 flights a week to the United Kingdom had also increased to 40 flights a week.?
The Executive Secretary of PANAFEST, Rabbi Kohain Halevi, said most airlines charged exorbitant fares because of the peaceful political atmosphere, security and tranquillity in Ghana, for they knew that that was a guarantee to attract tourists.
He said most of the destinations in other African countries were not peaceful and if the fares were increased, most tourists would not venture to visit there.
When the Graphic contacted some of the airlines for their comments, they preferred questionnaires or be called sometime next week to seek appointment with their country representatives.
The airlines contacted were Lufthansa, KLM and Alitalia.
While KLM and Alitalia officials told the Graphic that their representatives were unavailable until sometime next week, the country representative of Lufthansa Airline requested a questionnaire.
Meanwhile, a number of passengers interviewed complained of the high fares and also the poor services of the airlines.
They said it appeared the airlines wanted on the African routes their dilapidated aircraft, which have their air-conditioners not working, rusted roofing and broken seats.
They also complained about the inadequate leg-room in the economy class which makes sitting in the aircraft very uncomfortable.
They noted that when the British Airways had to fly its Pakistani route aircraft to Ghana soon after the Tsunami disaster, it was detected that the facilities, including the leg-room, were far more comfortable and better than what was being used for Ghana.
It was their view that passengers should embark on a boycott of the airlines for some time to let them sit up or the government should take them to task to respect Africans.
They pointed out that the airlines made their profits on the African routes and it was, therefore, important that they treat passengers with respect and decorum.