Ghana urged to grow tourism with more grassroots participation

By Martin-Luther C. King
Business Features Ghana urged to grow tourism with more grassroots participation
JAN 31, 2023 LISTEN

Government and private tour operators in Ghana have been urged to pay closer attention to the importance of ordinary Ghanaians to the country’s tourism industry with a view to increasing their participation for economic growth.

Speaking recently in Accra, the chief executive officer of Standard Travel and Tours, STT, Mr. Goodness Okeke said the move would broaden their perspective, nurture better relations with foreigners in Ghana and ultimately inure to the country’s economic benefit.

Ghana’s efforts to improve its tourism industry have recently crystalised around the ‘Beyond the Return’ and the ‘Destination Ghana’ programmes, which, following-up on the 400th anniversary of the end of the transatlantic slave trade, seek to attract more visitors to Ghana, including descendants of African slaves from all over the world. However, the programmes have been heavily impacted by the economic and other after-shocks of the covid-19 pandemic.

But Okeke said the vision can still be realized, but should be broadened to attract participation by Ghanaians in the grassroots; adding that this would easily be realized by tour companies in Ghana siting their offices more in rural areas and the less-privileged parts of town than in fancy parts of town and by rolling out grassroots-friendly and affordable tour packages.

“Tour companies in Ghana need to site their offices more in rural areas and the less-privileged parts of town as it will boost tourism by helping the ordinary Ghanaian relate better with foreigners in the country. It’s often the case that if one has not had the opportunity of travelling outside one’s country and immediate environment, or mixing with cultures different from one’s own, one may feel intimidated and suspicious of the outsider. But with the benefit of such exposure, specifically via tour events, one’s perspective gets broadened and more tolerant of lifestyles different from one’s own. And, presently, this is the problem with the segment of the population that are often referred to, with due respect, as the lower-class people in Ghana. You realize that most of the misunderstandings between Ghanaians and immigrants in the country come from the so-called lower-class people. Comparatively, upper-class people mingle, because they travel a lot; so, they mostly don’t have problem with foreigners in the country. The problem of accepting foreigners in Ghana is mostly from the lower-class people, so-called. So, tour companies in Ghana should be able to take tourism to these lower-class people and the grassroots, as that will enable them understand that there could be other equally beautiful and rich homes away from their homes which they could experience outside Ghana. And don’t even think that they cannot afford to go on tours. Truth is that they can. It only needs for tour companies in Ghana to design affordable and attractive tour packages with flexible payment plans,” Okeke noted.

Expressing excitement that Ghana has more statutory public holidays in a year compared to its peers in the sub-region, he said it was, however, a shame that most tour operators in the country have not leveraged that advantage to take tourism to the doorsteps of the ordinary Ghanaians.

“Ghana has so many holidays. Much more than (a lot of its peers), for instance. This year, STT will be rolling out packages for the respective holidays. Because when you come on holidays to Ghana, you will enjoy Ghana; you will understand that Ghanaians love to enjoy themselves. Ghanaians don’t joke with their holidays, trooping to beaches and the tourist sites that the country abounds with. So, from January to December this year, Standard Travel and Tours will accordingly be rolling out tour packages relative to the various holidays visiting tourist sites in Ghana. And, they will definitely be affordable, something that anybody can afford,” he assured.

Cost, he said, should not be a problem if only local tour operators can design their packages with offers of flexible and affordable payment plans.

“It all depends on the sites the tour operators are taking the group of tourists to. It’s possible to package intra-West African tours to locations in specific West African countries. It should not be the case that we must only package tours to Europe, America, Canada, or elsewhere outside Africa as is presently the case with many tour operators in Ghana. We must also start thinking of packaging tours to each other’s countries in West Africa. Isn’t it surprising that someone in Ghana often does not have much knowledge of Cote d’Ivoire, which is just next door? Why don’t we package a tour to Cote d’Ivoire? I don’t think such a tour will cost the average Ghanaian more than Ghc1000. It could be far less than that, perhaps. Take a group of such Ghanaian tourists, for instance, to Cote d’Ivoire and educate them on the importance of intra-West African trading, and thereby boost relations amongst our peoples. May I use this opportunity, therefore, to urge the Ministry of Tourism, tour companies and the private sector to more seriously pay attention to ordinary Ghanaians in the country’s tourism master-plan with the view to educating them on the need to avail themselves of every opportunity to tour other countries in the sub-region other than Ghana.

“Don’t be surprised that most Ghanaians don’t even know of the existence of the various tour sites around their country. Most are more familiar only with going to the beach and the drinking spot. But promotion will change the mindset. And this is where the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, MoTAC, can play the game-changer role by frequently promoting the tour sites in the media. MoTAC can also target certain events, such as Valentine’s Day, for media promotion, way before the event day to make it easy for even people from the grassroots to easily subscribe,” the STT boss asserted.

Reportedly the third-largest contributor to GDP and a recipient of rising levels of foreign investment each year, tourism is an important driver of Ghana’s economic growth. International arrivals in first quarter of 2022 alone was 400, 000, according to the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Awwal. The historical sites along the country’s Cape Coast remain an important destination for international diaspora visitors.

The countries from where majority of tourists to Ghana come from are the United States, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom. In addition to tourism, most of the visitors arrive also for business and family purposes.