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Opinions of Sunday, 8 December 2013

Columnist: wiredu, Nana Baa

Letter to His Excellency My President.


Mr. President, please do not dispose of the above national assets for the reasons that follow in this correspondence to you. These hospitality properties seem to some people to have outlived their usefulness and there is shouting everywhere for them to be quickly disposed of for their ‘residual’. Value.
Unfortunately Sir, their relevance to the Ghanaian economy, job creation, and the present national development agenda of your government, is poorly understood by industry players and even hospitality industry professionals.

Oh yes Sir, let me congratulate you for creating a tourism economy which has long not being appreciated and down played by the industry and economy kingpins of Ghana today. This is because you have added culture and creative arts to the Ministry and the Ghana Tourism Authority. Please, may you seriously consider adding the operation and management of the International Conference Centre to these? In all countries where tourism is a priority, they are bundled together. Till the present changes were effected, the Ministry was just a SALESMAN without control of a single one of the products it marketed within and outside the country. I am talking of the products that sum up the contents of the tourism, hospitality and leisure industry, namely, culture, eco-systems biodiversity, the support products, human resources capacitation, and the expansive logistics to enable the ministry play an effective and efficient role in national development.
The hospitality industry is the newest industry in the world, and the fastest growing one at that. The 2008 and 2009 world economic and financial debacle has come and almost gone. That financial collapse worldwide shook the US economy to the core and brought nations of Southern Europe to their knees; Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, and add to this Iceland and Ireland, The Emirates lost billions dollars and hotels which had just been finished in Dubai at the highest levels of luxury in hospitality, held their investors on the brink. But then the seriousness of the economic damages of these collapses in those countries was partially tamed, because they were high travel destinations and the hospitality industry provided a partial curative support. The aircraft builders of Boeing and Airbus will tell you business is on a strong recovery course. The hospitality industry is presently anchoring the recovery growth of world economic giants and Ghana, the seventh nation, with the strongest growth in its economy, of this decade can join them. Every indication is there that Ghana can lead Africa in the growth of the hospitality industry, because of the natural gifts to the nation which many countries lack and they will find it expensive and time consuming to try to achieve them, or reach that level.
Ghana is hardly doing any marketing in the hospitality sector and yet the receptive facilities (hotels and eateries) alone can create five thousand jobs in a year. When this happens, if such people will share their earned benefits with three people each that will amount to fifteen thousand beneficiaries. If we look at also the direct and induced supports for these to deliver, we shall be talking about a colossal intervention in a country where the youth unemployment will be assuming alarming proportions and will be making itself felt in prostitution, crimes associated with the youth, galamsey, begging, and robberies. They will defy the consequences of prison and harsh seclusion in high-walled prisons to communicate their dire need for survival.
Every year, ten polytechnics in Ghana put out into the streets at least five hundred of our finest youths with qualifications in catering and hospitality disciplines. Less than ten per cent of these are absorbed into existing hospitality outlets. Ministry of Education trains them and puts them out in the streets. Ministry of Employment does not know that these are out there looking for jobs. The Ministry of Tourism has no plan to work out any employment or experience acquisition plan with the National Service scheme or Ministry of Employment, that will help these kids integrate into society. This is very unfortunate and unacceptable. Employment doors are shut up on them, because they have raw skills which should be screened, packaged and directed to the thousand and one job openings presently available.
Elsewhere, in countries where similar educational institutions exist, the students have to compulsorily do at least one semester of practical training, in well established hospitality outlets and get graded as a testimony that they are ripe for employment. This is a must assessment which is a basic requirement in the field. Such schools have hardly any difficulty in placing their graduating class, because industry raids the school to employ them. Industry even helps such institutions with training logistics to help them attain high quality standards. They buy them their kitchens, laundry, housekeeping furnishings and periodically visit the institutions and interact with the students and bring them up to date with industry’s requirements. Ghana lacks all the above touches to fine tune the graduands for the market.
All this is because what has been mentioned above does not exist. Not a single polytechnic or university has a twenty-room demonstration hotel attached to it for hands-on practical insight training. Nursing schools are always attached to hospitals, so also should hotel schools be attached to demonstration hotels. These give the students the opportunity to come face to face with the clientele who demand their services, and learn how they want such services, and the response time, as well as the efficiency in the use of the tools of their profession etc.
Presently only GIMPA may have a hotel attached to its school. But then it jumps from senior high school to degree level .Apart from being expensive to get there and stay there, Hospitality education should at best not start from that level. Many Ghanaians will not be able to afford the education at that level. As implied here, all those presently graduating from the academic institutions, do not have the career values, qualitatively, to enter the market and stay there. This author is aware of hotels which have been disappointed by the skills of the HND holders, or have had to add to their, skills, at entry point, to attain the desired industrial skills. This is a waste of time and resources hardly countenanced by industry in this all competitive global village.
Where is the answer? The government needs to create an institution or institutions which will provide the practical industrial skills beyond the academia stuff. HOTCATT was set up to equip the students with that skill, but the institution presently lacks the structure to deliver on the demands of the industry. It is in temporary shelters, and the retooling for the lecturers to keep up with current industry demands is wanting. Motivation to keep staff sustainably may presently be lacking.
It is for the above that Mr. President you should not let go EREDEC, at Koforidua in the Eastern region. Rename it Hotel and Catering Academy of Ghana, or some other name which will translate into the objective to the building of a first class hotel and catering school. The School will equip its students with first class education comparable to the leading ones of the world. It will offer a Certificate or Diploma which will distinguish its graduates in the culinary art of the day, and offer the hard core experience that will complement the education, which present institutions fail to offer or are not equipped to give their graduates. The Eredec School will start by providing the missing link. Students will be here for at least six months to polish their basics in catering in the various fields; event catering, desserts, ethnic or exotic cuisine, packed meals, etc,etc. Eredec will also be a public sector initiative to cater for the Ghanaians who would not have the means to pay high fees to acquire the skills, but would have the strong desire to break out of their poverty friendly communities. Government will have no financing problems here if the school is well designed, because it financially can be self-sustaining and even make profit to establish a scholarship programme to help the poor pay their way through the acquisition of knowledge. Bolga Catering when converted will not only provide for those in the Upper East and its environs, but also cater for the increasing tourist arrivals from parts of the North, Burkina, Northern Togo, Mali, and Niger. Tamale catering Rest House has the capacity to support this very fast growing municipality and also the visitor influx. Please Mr. President; there is not a single economic or development sector presently with a propensity for a faster growth than the hospitality sector in the whole world behind the banking industry.
I am not sure if anyone has sat down to assess the implications of the growth of the Ghanaian economy which is classified as one of the seven fastest growing economies in the whole world. !!! Of course this was declared by the international financial communities before the DUMS?, DUMS? CRISIS. Let us take a moment to appreciate this phenomenal growth. Ghana has become a very important growth centre every nation is courting to be a friend. The only country in the world which is equidistant from the four corners of the globe, making it easily accessible for business, hospitality and leisure.
Mr. President, about thirty-six airlines are flying in and out of Ghana. If twelve fly out every evening, carrying one hundred and fifty passengers and twenty flight crew that will add up to two thousand and forty persons in flight. These will need six thousand, one hundred and twenty meals. There is a need of not less than four huge catering establishments, served by not less than three hundred employees each. The benefits of flight catering service are lost. Catering for the oil drilling wells and their dependent service agents as well as that for the mines is being overlooked now.
MR. PRESIDENT DO NOT LET THESE PUBLIC FACILITIES ON DIVESTITURE GO. I have more justification for you to let them stay, especially in the name of the unemployed and your own mass job creation agenda.
The hospitality industry can create jobs faster than any sector of the Ghanaian economy and also sustain such jobs. It has room to employ the handicapped, physically challenged, young, old, and senior citizens, formally and non-formally educated.

Lest I forget, I know at least six friendly nations with high reputation in the tourism, hospitality, and leisure industry education, which will help us achieve our hospitality finesse at the least cost to the national purse. They are waiting and it is their joy to receive the call from Your Excellency. Kenya did it with the help of Switzerland and created UTALII College, the best in Black Africa. We shall achieve ours with the help of other friendly nations.
Mr. President may you have a good day and may the Good Lord bless you and your family.

A Hospitality Consultant.

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