Government and private tour operators in Ghana have been urged to pay more attention to increasing the participation of ordinary Ghanaians in a bid to grow the country’s tourism industry.
Speaking in Accra recently, the Chief Executive Officer of Standard Travel and Tours, STT, Mr. Goodness Okeke, said the move would broaden their perspective, foster better relations with foreigners in Ghana and ultimately contribute to the economic benefit of the country.
STT is a leading travel brand in Ghana that provides premium domestic, regional and international travel services to customers both in Ghana and abroad. The company aims to be innovative and help restart the vibrant local and global tourism ecosystem after the pandemic; increasing national economic growth through tourism; consolidation of partnerships for tourism development; and to become a national and pan-West African tourism giant, according to the company.
Ghana’s efforts to improve its tourism industry have recently crystallized around the Beyond Return and Destination Ghana programs, which, following the 400th anniversary of the end of the transatlantic slave trade, seek to attract more visitors to Ghana, including descendants of African slaves. from all over the world.
However, the programs have been greatly affected by the economic and other subsequent shocks of the covid-19 pandemic.
But Okeke said the vision can still be realized but needs to be scaled up to get the participation of Ghanaians in the grassroots; adding that this would be easily realized by tourism companies in Ghana having more offices in the rural areas and less privileged parts of the city than in the posh parts of the city and urban areas; and by launching affordable travel packages convenient for the mass population.
“Tourism companies in Ghana should locate their offices more in rural areas and less privileged parts of the city as this will boost tourism by helping the common Ghanaian better connect with foreigners in the country.
It is often the case that if a person has not had the opportunity to travel outside their own country and immediate environment, or mix with cultures other than their own, they may feel fearful and suspicious of the outsider. But with the benefit of such exposure, especially through touring, one’s perspective broadens and becomes more tolerant of lifestyles different from one’s own. And right now that is the problem with the segment of the population that is often referred to, with due respect, as the lower class people in Ghana. You understand that most of the misunderstandings between Ghanaians and immigrants in the country come from the so called lower class people. Relatively upper class people mix because they travel a lot; so in most cases they have no problems with foreigners in the country. The problem with the reception of foreigners in Ghana is mostly from the lower class people, so called. So, tourism companies in Ghana should be able to provide tourism to these lower class people and the common people as this will let them know that there may be other equally beautiful and rich homes away from their homes that they could experience outside of Ghana.
Let’s not think they can’t afford to tour. The truth is they can. It is only necessary for tourism companies in Ghana to design affordable and attractive travel packages with flexible payment plans, Okeke noted.
Expressing excitement that Ghana has more statutory public holidays in the year compared to its peers in the sub-region, he said it was however unfortunate that most tour operators in the country had not taken advantage of this advantage to take tourism to the door-steps of ordinary Ghanaians.
“Ghana has so many holidays, much more than many other peers, for example. This year, STT will launch packages for the respective holidays. Because when you come on vacation to Ghana, you will enjoy Ghana; you will find that Ghanaians love to have fun.
Ghanaians do not joke about their vacations, hitting the beaches and tourist spots that the country abounds with. So, from January to December this year, Standard Travel and Tours will respectively launch travel packages related to the various holidays visiting tourist sites in Ghana. And they will definitely be available,
something everyone can afford,” he assured.
Cost, he said, should not be an issue if only local tour operators could design their packages with flexible and affordable payment plan offerings.
“It all depends on the places to which the tour operators take the group of tourists. It is possible to package tours within West Africa to locations in certain West African countries. It should not be the case that we should only package tours to Europe, America, Canada or elsewhere outside of Africa, as is currently the case with many tour operators in Ghana. We should also start thinking about package tours to each other’s countries in West Africa. Isn’t it surprising that someone in Ghana often doesn’t have much knowledge of Ivory Coast, which is right next door? Why not organize a tour to Ivory Coast? I don’t think such a tour will cost the average Ghanaian more than Ghc1000. It could be a lot less than that, maybe. Take a group of such Ghanaian tourists, for example, to the Ivory Coast and educate them on the importance of trade within West Africa and thereby strengthen the relationship between our peoples. Can I use this opportunity, therefore, calling on the Ministry of Tourism, tur es and the private sector to pay more attention to ordinary Ghanaians in the country’s tourism master plan with a view to educating them on the need to take advantage of every opportunity to tour other countries in the sub-region other than Ghana.
“Don’t be surprised that most Ghanaians are not even aware of the existence of various tourism sites around their country. Most are more familiar with just going to the beach and places to drink, but the promotion will change the mindset. And this is where the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MoTAC) can act as a rule changer, often promoting tourism sites in the media. MoTAC can also target certain events, such as Valentine’s Day, for media promotion well in advance of the day of the event to facilitate even common people to subscribe easily,” the STT boss stated.
Said to be the third largest contributor to GDP and the recipient of increasing levels of foreign investment each year, tourism is an important driver of Ghana’s economic growth. International arrivals in the first quarter of 2022 alone were 400,000, according to the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed Awal. Historic sites in Cape Coast, Central Region remain an important destination for international visitors from the diaspora.
The countries where the majority of tourists to Ghana come from are the United States, Nigeria and the United Kingdom. In addition to tourism, a large number of visitors also arrive for business and family purposes.