Mrs Juliana Azumah-Mensah, the new Minister of Tourism, on Tuesday asked the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), to help Ghana conduct a study to establish why it was not yet on the tourism map of the world.
She said for Ghana to be on the world tourism map would means it would be one of the countries in the world that a tourist would like to visit once in a lifetime.
Mrs. Azumah-Mensah said Ghana had all it took to attract millions of tourists as it had peace and a stable democracy, but had not been able to attract tourists as it should.
She said these when Mr. Francesco Frangialli, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, visited her to discuss this year's World Tourism Day celebration, which would be hosted by Ghana.
World Tourism Day is celebrated on September 27 every year to draw attention to tourism potentials and how countries could use tourism to alleviate poverty.
Mrs Azumah-Mensah said: “Our people are hospitable; we are rich in diverse culture and history which should attract visitors. Even though we cannot compare our wildlife to that of East African countries like Kenya, Ghana also has some wildlife and natural beautiful scenery worth seeing. With all these and other attractions, it is difficult for me to understand why Ghana receives only a few thousand tourists in a year.”
She added: “I need the UNWTO to assist in finding out the causes of Ghana's inability to attract tourists.”
Mrs Azumah-Mensah explained that Ghana was not advocating for mass tourism but needed to attract more tourists to help create more jobs and also eliminate poverty especially in the rural areas.
She commended UNWTO for choosing Ghana as one of the countries to benefit from the Sustainable Tourism for Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) programme, which was currently being implemented in the Western and Northern regions.
The ST-EP programme introduced by the UNWTO was aimed at using education and tourism to eliminate poverty and it had so far established eight libraries in eight communities to encourage education and also create awareness about tourism.
Mrs Azumah-Mensah urged UNWTO to assist the Ministry to review training standards in the hospitality industry to ensure that Ghana acted in line with the international standards.
Mr Frangialli narrated the history of the establishment of the UNWTO and said it was a full fledged organization like UNESCO committed to using tourism as a tool to eliminate poverty.
He said UNWTO paid more attention to poor and developing countries and it was prepared to work with Ghana to make it a preferred tourism destination.
“Tourism is like a chain with links, when one link is broken it does not work,” Mr Frangialli said, and explained that the tourism sector needed other sectors to make it work successfully.
He said when a tourist visited a country, he or she did not only need the services of a hotel and restaurant but also good taxis or transport system, good security, stable economy, among other things, to make a person enjoy a country.
Mr Frangialli, therefore, urged the Minister to work with other sectors of the economy to enable the tourism industry to work properly.
He also commented on Ghana hosting of this year's World Tourism Day event on the theme: “Tourism Celebrates Diversity,” and urged the ministry to prepare well since doing that well could put Ghana on the tourism map.
As part of the preparation towards the celebration on the World Tourism Day, the Ministry set up a committee last year to plan and draw programme that would draw the attention of the world to Ghana.
Mr. Charles Osei Bonsu, Deputy Director of the Ghana Tourist Board, who chairs the committee, said they were still preparing the programme and pointed out that they would hold forums in every region, have a National Tourism Exhibition and organize other activities that would showcase Ghana as a good destination.
Some beneficiaries of the ST-EP programme also shared their experiences and urged the Ministry to set aside a month that would be used for tourism awareness where tourism programmes and activities and as well as benefits would be highlighted to get the general public interested in tourism.
Mrs Bridget Katsriku, Chief Director of the Ministry, hoped that tourism would be decentralized to ensure that every region developed their tourism activities to suit its people.