Tema -- The Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) has proposed a three hundred and eighty four percent (384%) increase in the 2005 annual license fees of the various accommodation enterprises in the hospitality industry in the country.
This, in effect means that hotels, restaurants, fast food joints, night clubs, travel and tour operators, car rentals among others in the industry, which are presently paying ¢5 million as annual license fees are expected to pay ¢24.2 million.
According to the GTB, the increment would help to raise enough funds to enable it widen its scope of operation, engage in periodic inspections of the various tourism plants as well as enhance the competitiveness among players in the hospitality industry.
The GTB explained that due to the financial problems facing it, it was unable to embark on the usual periodic inspection and other official exercises that would help the local industry meet international and ECOWAS standards.
"Currently, the board undertakes only end of year inspection, re-inspection and occasional enforcement exercise as a result of logistical and financial limitations," part of a letter cited by the paper on the topic explained.
"The board is allocated with limited budget to undertake this onerous exercise and considering the importance of quality assurance in the tourism industry, the board is compelled to charge tourism plant operators the right economic rates to sustain the exercise," the letter, which was signed by Mr. Charles Osei Bonsu, Acting Deputy Director in-charge of Finance and Administration at the GTB further stated.
However, the Ghana Hotels Association (GHA) has rejected the proposal, describing it as totally unacceptable and too exorbitant for operators in the industry, which is likely to cause majority of the operators in the country to close down.
"We believe that licensing a hotel to operate should not be seen as an attempt to collapse private investment in the hotel industry," members of the GHA said at their first national executive council meeting, held at Tema over the weekend.
According to the executives, in a situation where a unit is rated higher, payment of license fees from the agencies become exorbitant and that does not auger well for the upgrading of the facilities.
They appealed to the GTB to re-consider its proposal so as to give the operators some breathing space, "else the consequence will be that most of us may be compelled to close down, as these increases will have adverse effect on our operations, employment generation as well as loss of revenue to the government."
Investigations conducted by The Chronicle show that if the proposed increment is implemented, a time would come when the number of subscribers of hotel services would dwindle and this would affect the tourism industry.
We gathered that even at the present rates and fees charged by the operators, most customers had been complaining that their services were too dear for a country like ours.