The President of the Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF), Mr. Foster Joe Nyarko has blamed the slow growth of Ghana's tourism industry on the ignorance of the sector ministers about the industry saying, “they do not understand tourism.”
“The ministers themselves do not understand tourism; when you attend meetings with them, the first thing they ask you is, where is the money you say tourism has brought? They do not know how tourism operates,” Nyarko told members of the Ghana Tourism Board Senior Staff Association at a congress on Friday.
He said government's inactions to develop the industry had cast a serious doubt on whether the nation could realize the $1.5 billion revenue it had projected to gain from the industry by 2007.
“There is nothing. The problems I indicated are basically financial and lack of recognition by the Government,” Mr. Nyarko told The Chronicle in an interview after the programme.
“Like the projection we had,” the GHATOF boss went on, “we are expecting $1.5 billion by the year 2007; what is the government putting in place to ensure that, that figure is realized, you understand?” he said.
“As I said, money begets money; you reap what you sow. So to just sit down and say by 2007 we will get so much when there are no preparations on the ground, when they (tourists) come where will they sleep?”
He said, “we came and met the Castles and Forts, the parks are there and we have not added any money or value to them. Tourism is two way affair; we have the infrastructure development, which is government's responsibility, and the marketing.”
He said the multiplicity of taxes and low investment incentives had made investing in the local industry unattractive.
Nyarko said whiles in countries like South Africa, Africa's biggest tourism attraction spot, gave investors 20 years tax holiday, Ghana offered only five years.
When asked how he came by those figures that the Tourism Industry usually boasts of being the source of huge foreign income generation, Nyarko said the statistics were often gathered from the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, through the number of tourists that entered the country, the airport taxes that they paid, the hotels that they slept in and even the places they visited.
Incidentally, the Tourism Minister, Mr. Jake Obetsibi Lamptey, who was invited to deliver the keynote address could not make it to the programme, neither was he represented.
But a statement delivered by the Ghana Tourism Board (GTB) Acting Executive Director, Mr. Martin Mireku also revealed the limitations in the working conditions of the members and staff of the GTB.
Mr. Mireku lamented that it was a hard fact that the board was faced with a lot of challenges which, if not readily addressed, would affect its progress to realize the targets envisaged in the Tourism Strategy Plan.
He named some of the immediate challenges facing the board as poor working environment, poor logistical outlays in terms of both equipment (vehicles) and personnel.
The mission of the GTB is to ensure sustainable tourism development through the creation of an enabling environment for the provision of quality tourism and service for the traveling public with a well qualified, highly motivated and dedicated workforce and thereby promote tourism to become the leading sector of the economy.
But with the numerous constraints facing the industry, its officials have expressed fears that, that dream would be a mirage unless something drastic was done now to rectify the situation.
The congress was under the theme: “The role of quality manpower towards the development and promotion of tourism in Ghana.”