Feature Article of Sunday, 2 September 2012

Columnist: Kojo Bentum-Williams

Making Tourism Counts

Tourism over the years has played crucial role in our national economy (both macro and micro) and continues to make significant strides in our national economies globally. Recent research figures released by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) literally encourage countries to seriously consider tourism as part of their broader plan and most especially for developing economies like Ghana.

Tourism as a service industry sometimes becomes difficult for the average Ghanaian to appreciate its impacts on them especially when the said industry itself works effectively in synergy with other sectors. Every individual in the social ladder one way or the other get to feel the money spent by the tourist.

Ghana over the years has outlined and drawn up strategies to lure international tourists to our country. One of the areas that we can explore to the full benefit of the tourism industry is to make tourism part of officialdom. This will make our guests and visitors at least have a feel and firsthand experience of our motherland. Just as a cliché in marketing goes, the word of mouth perhaps is the best form of selling out a product or service to a customer.

In this light, the obvious class of people who comes to mind are the visiting heads of states and foreign envoys with our presidents taking them to one or two tourist attractions. This is laudable but this is just a fraction of the abundant opportunities that abounds in this area. Government agencies, ministries, departments, corporate Ghana and the entertainment industry can help in selling/branding Ghana to participants of conferences, seminars, workshops, business trips and entertainment events.

Ghana has played host to numerous international events yet little has been seen in inculcating tourism as part of the various programs. A mention of few of these includes the Can 2000, Can 2008, African Union 2007, 2009 African Hockey Championship, West African games, numerous business conferences and many more. We missed these great opportunities to brand Ghana and make it more appealing to the international tourism community. We could have done better in taking full advantage of charismatic personalities like Jose Mourinho who was one of the guests for the finals of CAN 2008.

Could you have imagined Mourinho’s visit to any of our numerous attractions and the impact it would have made thereafter on?

What about the international music icons who have in the last decade performed in Ghana. Talk of Jay-Z, Shaggy, Akon, Sean Paul, Brick and Lace and the list is endless and these great stars having the opportunities to see great attractions like the Kakum National Park, Mole National Park, the castles and many more........ Each of us can play our part in the quest to make the tourism industry a vibrant one and a sector that promises sustainability.

It is against this backdrop that Public-Private partnership ought to be intensified to achieve the desired results since it is one of the essential ingredients in growing our tourism industry. One obvious challenge of the industry is the seeming inactiveness of the tourism trade associations as compared to other sectors. Tourism is a force even in developed economies let alone developing economy like ours where poverty alleviation is best addressed with concerted tourism efforts.

In winding up, let us make tourism parts of our plans as we showcase our motherland to the outside world.