The Private Sector of Ghana's Tourism industry under the umbrella of the Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF) has delivered a letter full of recommendations to His Excellency President Mills.
The proposal titled 'Recommendations on How to Stimulate Ghana's Economy through Tourism' was delivered on Wednesday, January 21 by the President of GHATOF to the Chairman of the Transitional Team on the Social Sector with particular reference to the Tourism Team.
The recommendations reiterated the concerns of the IMF on the current financial downturn affecting the globe that is set to continue through 2009, with world economic growth to slow to 3.9% in 2008 and 3.0% in 2009. It highlighted the impact of the economic and financial crisis that has dramatically altered the shape of the global landscape for travel and tourism, as liquidity dries up, commodity prices rise, inflation increases and consumer demand falls.
GHATOF's recommendations focused on critical actions that the government needed to take in the short-term, in 2009 and beyond. They were mainly
1. The appointment of a knowledgeable Minister of Tourism whose passion for growth and development in the sector will take the industry robustly through the imminent global recession;
2. Immediate institution of the Board of Directors for the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB), pending the passage of the New Tourism Bill, in accordance with Ghana Tourist Corporation Act 349 1970, then renamed to Ghana Tourist Control Board in 1973 and its final amendment decree in 1977. By this Act, GTB is required to have a Board constituted by a Chairman that is appointed by the President of Ghana and other representatives from the present Ministry of Tourism & Diasporan Relations, Ministry of Trade & Industry, PSI and PSD, Ministry of Information and National Orientation, Ministry of Finance & Economic Planning, the Bank of Ghana, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (later removed from the list in 1973), the Executive Director of the Ghana Tourist Board the late Ghana Airways Corporation, the late State Hotels Corporation, and two distinguished Ghanaians in the field of tourism. The members of the Board are supposed to hold office for two years;
3. The passage of the New Tourism Bill which looks at the New Structure of the GTB and the establishment of the Tourism Development Fund;
4. Synergizing the roles of the Ministry of Tourism & Diasporean Relations (MoTDR) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in promoting a consistent image of Ghana[Brand Ghana] Internationally through aggressive National Tourism Marketing & Promotion and Public Diplomacy respectively:
a. Staff of Ghana's Foreign Missions/Consulates must be taken on a Countrywide Familiarization Guided Tour with the Tour Operators Union of Ghana(TOUGHA) as part of their orientation and training before leaving for their posts;
b. A clear policy on Public Diplomacy that clearly reflects the objectives of promoting the image of Ghana by the Tourism Sector;
c. The Institution of Tourism Desks at all Foreign Missions/Consulates manned by Trained personnel on Ghana Tourism Promotion;
d. Or alternatively hire the services of Trade Representatives in the various key source countries for Ghana's Tourism and othe potential ones
5. Allocate a bigger budget of Government Expenditure to the Tourism Sector and specifically to Marketing and Promotion of the image Ghana as a Destination;
6. The creation of Return on Investment (ROI) studies on the Tourism Sector in collaboration with the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) for informing potential investors and financial institutions on latent economic opportunities.
7. Encourage financial institutions to dedicate a percentage of their incentives to Tourism based on ROI-proven potential in the sector and allocate more resources to long-term financing options for hotel investments;
According to Stella Appenteng, president of GHATOF, Ghana is not immune to the slowdown unless the incoming government shows commitment to restoring economic confidence with subsequent recovery in the sector in 2010.
The recommendations were preceded by challenges facing Ghana's tourism sector in 2009 and beyond and included the following:
1. Job losses from companies in the Transportation, Accommodation, Food and Beverage, Entertainment folding up due to credit crisis;
2. Operating costs have risen due to rising oil prices and there are clear signs that the financial crisis and lack of credit for investors is also taking its toll;
3. The Tourism Industry's struggle to raise capital shall worsen in the period 2009;
4. Hotel occupancy rates are falling in advanced economies such as the US indicating cuts in travel costs by visitors;
5. The Food and Beverage sub-sector will suffer as commodity prices rise and Eating Out is often the first item to go when budgets are tightened;
6. Tour Operators face imminent crisis as even insurance-bonded ones collapse in advanced economies increasing the need for consumer protection initiatives supported by government;
7. The Airline sub-sector has been the hardest hit by the crisis. IATA quoted that 26 airlines so far have gone bust in 2008, with more casualties expected during the industry shakeout, further threatening job losses;
In the face of the looming economic crisis, Ghana still can see some light at the end of the tourism tunnel. These were listed as follows in the recommendations too:
1. Global industry trends indicate that the desire for social and environmental responsibility, social interaction, authentic travel experiences and fair trade practices will make Ghana gain a valuable point of differentiation in the face of declining consumer purchasing power if we aggressively promote sustainable fair trade tourism in 2009 and beyond.
2. Ghana is projected to have the 4th largest growth in tourism receipts in Africa for the period 2007-2012 (Euromonitor International).
3. Ghana positioned as upholding a 'Culture of Peace' internationally and thus a relatively safe destination for international travel.
4. Alternative sources of visitors namely, the BRICs - Brazil, Russia, India and China - offer potential with their rising disposable incomes and present an opportunity for a new direction in Ghana's Tourism Marketing and Promotion.
The presentation was the result of consultations within the tourism private sector following the recent elections. Although some of the issues raised have been recurrent since the establishment of the Ministry of Tourism in the early 90s, it is hoped that the incoming government will take tourism more seriously.