The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has officially opened the National Museum Gallery which was closed for refurbishment in 2015. Prior to its closure, a Business &Financial Times reportage informed us all that both local and foreign tourists were shunning museums in the country due to their poor state and inadequate artefacts – with one Ghanaian visitor to the National Museum calling it a “national disgrace”. “The national Museum is a disgrace to the nation for such an educational edifice to be neglected. Many of the things in there are so primitive and only highlight certain cultures, and that does not speak well of us,” – the visitor.
Fortunately, government decided to refurbish the museum and it is back to its best. The facility, located on the premises of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board in Adabraka, Accra, had not seen any major refurbishment since it was first opened in 1957 in commemoration of Ghana’s Independence Day. Some additions have been made to the already existing things to see. Let’s all take four hours off and visit the National Museum. That will also be our little way of supporting domestic tourism.
During the launch, the President challenged the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Arts and it implementing agencies to work toward achieving 2 million international arrivals by 2024, with expected revenue of US$4billion by the year 2024. This is indeed a daunting task put upon the ministry. Less than two years to work toward doubling the numbers we enjoyed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter how ambitious this target may be, I’m somehow sceptical this target may be achieved.
Below are some of the possible reasons.
- We have been affected by COVID-19 pandemic since 2020 and a rebound is just on the horizon. Tourism experts predicted that the rebound may not really take place until the middle of 2023. The COVID-19 pandemic reduced international travel by 80 percent, according to figures provided by UNWTO. A vaccine has been put in place and tourists are gradually gaining confidence, and many nations have come to accept the fact that we may have to live with COVID-19. Many international tourists may still not perceive Africa and Ghana as the safest place to visit yet, and may prefer taking tours closer to them despite a vaccine being in place. A reasonable alternative is intra-Africa tourism which is still not very successful on the continent for many reasons. One which comes to mind immediately is the fact that there is still a large part of the population struggling to make ends meet and are unable to earn a discretionary income. Tourism is perceived as an expensive activity on the continent, and that perception may deter many Africans. Africa’s working class do not also enjoy paid up holidays entitlements as part of their working conditions.
- With international growing economic hardship and the increases in fuel prices globally, I cannot foresee a drastic increase in the number of arrivals in Ghana. According to statistics from UNWTO, Africa enjoyed 5 percent of all international arrivals and on the African continent; some of the top receiving countries include South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt. Ghana needs to compete with these top preferred destinations which will become difficult, and even more difficult. The WTTC’s latest annual research shows that:
- Followinga loss of almost US$4.9trillion in 2020 (-50.4 percent decline), Travel & Tourism’s contribution to GDP increased by US$1trillion (+21.7 percent rise) in 2021.
- In 2019, the Travel & Tourism sector contributed 3 percent to global GDP; a share which decreased to 5.3 percentin 2020 due to ongoing restrictions to mobility. 2021 saw the share increasing to 6.1 percent.
- In 2020, 62 million jobs were lost, representing a drop of 18.6 percent, leaving just 271 million employed across the sector globally, compared to 333 million in 2019. 2 million jobswere recovered in 2021, representing an increase of 6.7 percent year-on-year.
- Following a decrease of 47.4 percent in 2020, domestic visitor spending increased by 31.4 percent in 2021.
- Following a decrease of 69.7 percentin 2020, international visitor spending rose by 3.8 percent in 2021. The above data shows how slow the rebound could be.
- According to the UNWTO report, the number one reasons for travel and tours to Africa are for wildlife, followed by culture and heritage. When it comes to wildlife, Ghana is at a disadvantage compared with other competing countries on the continent, and that becomes a challenge. Culture and heritage is the preferred advantage for Ghana, yet the greatest success was during the year of return; and the best we could achieve was a little over 1 million. With many tourist having lost their jobs and incomes having been affected, especially in North African – which is the number one generating country according to data from WTTC. It will becomes difficult increasing the numbers to 2million unless something unexpected happens.
- Many countries who have developed their tourism and succeeded have depended on domestic spending. A WTTC report further revealed that domestic tourism continues to represent about 73 percent of the total global tourism spending (US$3,971billion). While there are significant variations between countries, domestic contributions to travel & tourism reached 94 percent in Brazil and 87 percent in India, Germany, China and Argentina; with China accounting for 62 percent of global absolute growth in domestic spending over the past ten years. This growth has enabled China to climb from fourth position in 2008 to the top spot, overtaking the USA to become the largest domestic travel market in the world. Unfortunately for Ghana, domestic spending is still not encouraging. Local tourists hardly make use of paid up accommodation, especially on travels for funerals.
- Government intends refurbishing a number of tourist sites, which is a good initiative; however the success of any destination is dependent on the 3As i.e. attractions, amnesties, and accessibility. Many attractions are still not easily accessible due to poor roads, and to achieve our target, a facelift of roads leading to all major attractions will need to be considered.
- One reason why Europe enjoys more than 50 percent of all international arrivals is due to the well-developed transportation system. This makes travelling easy and affordable. Tour operators are, thus, able to package very affordable tours. On the contrary, connecting flights on the African continent is very cumbersome and expensive. Until this challenge is resolved, a large number of African and international tourists will be dissuaded.
- The top tourism generating countries to Ghana per the latest report from WTTC indicate as follows;
- United States 32 percent.
- Nigeria 18 percent.
- United Kingdom 13 percent.
- Côte d’Ivoire 9 percent.
- Germany 7 percent.
We therefore have two from West Africa, two from Europe, and USA. The US market is dominated by the diaspora who visit mostly for heritage tourism. We need to ensure that we grow the Nigeria and Cote d’ivoire market if we are to increase our arrivals. These are our neighbours and we must take advantage, and then tap into the East African and Southern African markets.
Philip is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd., a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations