An international tourism consultant working in Ghana on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, Dr. Mike Fabricius, has urged government to pump more money into the marketing of Ghana's tourism potentials.
He said countries that spent more on marketing their tourism potentials always attracted more tourists and had vibrant economies.
Dr Fabricius, who also works for the Dutch NGO, the SNV and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), showed a chart by the UNWTO which listed the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and China, among other countries that spent more on marketing their tourism potentials compared to most African countries. Ghana was not on the list.
He was speaking at a day's seminar organized by the sector ministry to discuss marketing strategies that the tourism industry could use to attract
more tourists and make Ghana known world-wide.
The seminar on the topic: “Towards a Tourism Marketing Strategy for Ghana,” brought together private tour operators, hoteliers, officials of the Ghana Tourists Board and tourism consultants who shared ideas about the way forward for the tourism industry.
Dr. Fabricius said: “Tourism brings a lot of economic benefits and has huge opportunities for everyone in the country.”
He noted, however, that the industry could also have negative effects on the economy if everything was imported for the benefit of the tourists.
Africa, he said, attracted only three per cent of global tourism out of which West Africa attracted only 10 per cent of tourists arrivals.
Narrowing on Ghana, he said the country had the third largest tourism share in West Africa but her performance had not been the best between 2000 and 2005. He also noted that Ghana attracted more business travellers than leisure travellers.
He thus called on tour operators to come up with strategies that would enable business travellers to spend more time in the country to experience Ghana's tourism attractions.
Dr. Fabricius cautioned that mass tourism where thousands of tourists from a particular destination trooped into a country just to leisure at the beach resorts was not the most suitable for Ghana since the country's tourism resources were not suitable for it.
Ghana could position herself to attract selected tourists who would spend more money, he said, rather than encouraging mass tourism.
Mentioning some challenges he had identified in the tourism industry in Ghana, he said the essence of making a difference in terms of tourism as a country did not depend on the kind of products or services that were available as a country but the kind of people and how they received tourists.
He asked: “What are people's perceptions about Ghana? What perceptions have people in the industry created in the minds of their customers? It does not depend on the architecture, lifestyle, food, hospitality, it is the people.
“Being different means being true to yourself but refining your offer as a tourism destination,” he added.
Dr. Fabricius advised the industry players to improve the value for money for tourists who visited the country.
Ghana, he stressed, needed to improve access to the country in terms of air ticket, accommodation and encourage more investments because a tourist who had a choice between Ghana and Kenya could chose the latter because of the low air fare.
Mr. Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, outgoing sector Minister, called for a more creative approach to tourism where man-made activities could be used as tourism attractions and said a lot more needed to be exploited in a more sustainable way.
“There is a huge potential of creative tourism attractions which have not been exploited at all.”
Mr Asamoah-Boateng expressed hope that participants would come up with innovative ideas and measures that could help move Ghana's tourism marketing strategy forward.
Mr Joe Nyarko, a private tour operator, urged other participants to be practical in their discussions.
He also called for an education programme to educate people in the industry about their attitudes and behaviour which sometimes drove tourists away.