We are all listening to our Radio and watching our TV stations. Ghanaians who didn't watch the international TV stations are starting to be aware since a few weeks about the Corona Virus.
Ghanaians and foreigners in Ghana watching the international news stations are aware for months already that there is a mysterious new disease in China, later in South Korea, Japan, on a cruise ship and after that in Italy, The USA, UK and finally our first cases arrived in Ghana.
Today almost all countries in the world have one and up to 25,000 cases of this “deadly” virus.
I write deadly in quotation marks because many other diseases we call in Africa by their name but are not always called deadly: Malaria, Typhoid, Cholera and others. We know that Ebola and HIV/AIDS is deadly.
To me by death rates Ebola and HIV/AIDS are indeed deadly. All others, including this new Corona Virus can be deadly but the vast majority of us Africans will survive. (Based on the current available information)
Today to many of us, the economic impacts of the measures against this virus are just as big a concern as the outbreak of the virus as well.
Super markets and pharmacies are having hay days. Although there are no real effects visible in Ghana yet, just like in the rest of the world people start stockpiling foodstuff and hygiene materials.
Other sectors will see a temporary downfall and their biggest concern at this moment is:
CAN OUR ECONOMY SURVIVE THE CORONA CRISIS?
The hardest hit sectors are, and will always be any sector that has to do with traveling.
Airlines are receiving massive hits already and many won't be able to survive this crisis.
The hospitality sector will be hit hard as well.
Being a Ghanaian, having worked in the hospitality sector for almost 40 years, living in Ghana and running a (small) hospitality establishment in Ghana I know exactly what the problems for our sector will be.
For that reason I am writing this article. Not for the hospitality owners; because just as me, they are fully aware that they are going to be hit; but for users/consumers of our hospitality sector.
From Sunday all flights from Schengen Countries are being cancelled, I am sure others will be added.
Entering Ghana for passengers of countries with more than 200 cases of the Corono virus have been and will be refused entrance into Ghana for at least 4 weeks.
Ghanaians are now starting to be more careful and will, as far as they haven't started yet reduce using hotels, restaurants bars etc.
All conferences and mass gatherings for more than 25 people, like weddings and funerals have been cancelled.
This means for the largest foreign owned hotels in which most guest come from abroad, that staff will be laid off soon and mortgage payments will suffer due to lack of income.
This means for middle class local owned hotels, firstly staff will be laid off and later some will end up in bankruptcy because they can't afford mortgage payments.
This means for cheaper and private owned accommodations, small hotels and guesthouses, staff will be laid off and their establishment will be closed or partly closed.
This means for suppliers of all this hospitality establishments, their business will equally be affected.
The difficult and unique position of the hospitality industry is that the multiplier effect of our sector is one of the highest compared to other sectors of the economy. The side effect of this is that many people and companies not directly involved in the hospitality industry will be affected as well.
Maintenance companies, food and beverage suppliers, pool suppliers, cleaning companies, print shops, flower companies, hairdressers, craft and arts industry and many others.
My biggest worry is: Ghana started a great initiative “The Year of Return”.
Question 1 is: will these and other tourists come back?
Question 2 is: will the airlines all return to keep flying to Ghana affordably?
Question 3 is: which of the current hotels and restaurants will still exist?
Question 4 is: how hard will Ghana be hit economically, in connection with future conferences?
I am sure that we have capable people at our Ministry of Tourism and Ghana Tourism Authority who have realized and identified the same problems and challenges.
The developed world has taken measures to save core industrial and other sectors already by supporting them financially, but Ghana is a developing country, CAN WE AFFORD THAT?
I sincerely hope that Mr. Ofori-Attah will treat our sector lenient and allow tax incentives and other measures to survive. The same with our banking sector, will they give us 1 – 2 or more months penalty less delay in mortgage payments ?
Let's all hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
My last advice to all Ghanaians: support our sector as long as this outbreak is not a massive one in Ghana:
Take this opportunity to travel within Ghana, visit parts of Ghana you have never seen before, eat in restaurants and support our hospitality sector.
To all owners of Hotels, Guesthouses etc my advice to you is:
Make sure you keep hygienic standards in your establishments high
Make sure your staff is aware of the dangers
As long as your price levels are reasonable Ghanaians can save your company.
Writer, Nico C.M. van Staalduinen, is a concerned Ghanaian