By TBY | Ghana | May 21, 2018
Ghana has everything that people look for in a prospective African holiday; unfortunately, the numbers do not yet reflect the potential, so the government has embarked on a comprehensive marketing campaign to put the country on the map.
Ghana is no newcomer to tourism. Though it lags behind the continent’s chief tourism destinations of Morocco and South Africa, the country has relatively well-developed infrastructure for visitors and, with its ideal location in Western Africa, is able to offer tourists almost everything they would come to Africa in search of.
Since 2005, tourist arrivals to the country have been on the general incline, though starting in 2010, numbers have fallen twice. According to the World Bank, Ghana received just under 900,000 tourists in 2015. Though small compared to South America and Morocco, which both receive closer to 10 million visitors annually, the number is more than almost all other countries in the region.
Currently lighting the country’s path is the National Tourism Development Plan 2013-2027, the nation’s first 15-year tourism plan. The plan is comprehensive and covers everything from hotel taxes to marketing. At the forefront of the plan is creating more jobs in the country. As the sector continues to grow, surplus labor will be required, and the government hopes that this demand will translate to nearly 500,000 new jobs, both direct and indirect, by the end of the plan. While these goals are indeed intended to land Ghana higher on the tourist radar, the government is also hoping that the sector’s transformation may be able to reduce poverty locally by building sustainable industries that will help encourage development. While the government does not yet have concrete projections for the fiscal success of the development plan, preliminary estimations put the amount of income from the tourism sector reaching USD440 million by the end of 2017 and up to USD1 billion at the end of the plan.
The plan entails a vigorous marketing campaign that is to be implemented over several years and led by the Ministry of Tourism. The campaign is working to boost awareness of the country as a tourist destination among specific groups within important source markets. Among these groups are business travelers, who make up close to one-third of spending by visitors, according to tourism research firm World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The campaign is also emphasizing the relative political stability of Ghana against its regional and continental neighbors; Ghana is often considered among the safest countries in West Africa.
The marketing campaign is not stopping at tourists. It is also working regionally and beyond to build awareness of Accra’s Kotoka Airport as a regional hub and ultimately harness more potential visitors. As of September 2017, the airport introduced two new international airlines since the previous year. With an annual 7.9% growth rate in the country’s aviation industry, the government has started building Terminal 3 at Kotoka, which is scheduled to be completed in April 2018 and designed to accommodate 5 million passengers.
The contribution of the tourism sector to GDP has been slow to grow over the last decade, and though future growth is not forecasted to explode, the country is expected to have steady growth through the next 10 years. According to WTTC, in 2016 the total contribution of the tourism sector to GDP sat at 7.1%, or GHS11.5 billion. In 2017, it is expected to grow by 5.2% to GHS12.1 billion, but due to increase in the overall GDP, only contribute a total of 7%. By 2017, WTTC estimates tourism will account for 6.6% of national GDP, following a 4.8% per annum rise to GHS19.3 billion.
WTTC projects slightly different tourism-based employment forecasts than the government, but still on the road to growth. In 2016, the sector generated a total of 693,000 jobs, or roughly 6% of total employment. In 2017, that figure is expected to grow by 3.9% to 720,000, and by 2028, growing at 5.6% per year, reaching 847,000.
According to the Ghana Statistical Service, domestic tourists spend the greatest amount on transportation throughout the country. In a drive to boost domestic tourism, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture has set out to encourage improvement in infrastructure in order to reduce prices and get more Ghanaians traveling locally. In January 2017, the government removed a 17.5% value-added tax for local air travel. The move seems to have worked; as of September 2017, the number of domestic passengers increased by almost a quarter, from 302,000 to 374,000.