Mr Owusu Amoakohene, Research Advisor at the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations has stressed the importance of using sustainable tourism as a key to Ghana's economic development.
He said: "I am convinced that appropriate sustainable tourism is the key to unlocking the wealth
of Ghana even though economic growth in the country is mostly tied to agriculture, industry and mineral development."
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the potential of tourism in Ghana in relation to the 50th anniversary celebration of independence, Mr Amoakohene said the prospects of tourism in Ghana were endless due to continuous growth and expansion in the industry.
He said the foreign exchange component of tourism was huge and could contribute to Ghana's overall development effort.
Mr Amoakohene said in 2005, 428,533 international tourists visited Ghana. Each visitor, on average, spent 11 days while spending 1,950 dollars for the period, thus generating about 836 million dollars during the period.
"Tourism is important in Ghana's development because Ghana has competitive advantage in tourism over agriculture, industry and mining. The best way to develop our economy is to invest in tourism."
He said if Ghana could increase its tourist arrivals over the next five years to five million at the expenditure rate of 2,000 dollars per tourist, that would fetch 10 billion dollars. "With current socio-economic conditions five million visitors were achievable if we put our minds and money to it."
Mr Amoakohene said the power of tourism lay in its ability to generate employment in areas not directly related to the hospitality industry like construction, small businesses and infrastructural development.
"Ghana cannot sit back and not invest in tourism. The United Nations World Tourism Organization acknowledges that the industry is one of the world's fastest growing sectors.
"Consequently, its turnover is among the highest in the global economy or even higher than those of the car and petrol industry."
Mr Amoakohene said Ghana faced many challenges and opportunities in transforming its natural, historical and cultural riches into a thriving, sustainable tourism sector that contributed to poverty alleviation and rural economic expansion.
"The recognition of the importance of developing a sustainable brand of tourism is the first step in realizing its potential."