Are you looking to have any more African airlines flying into Ghana?
The construction of Terminal 3 has begun, and that means that we are expanding so that we can accommodate more airlines. We want to encourage more African airlines to come here, and we are taking the necessary steps for that. Terminal 3 will be a big boost for our tourism sector and the overall economy. The foundations are there; 34 airlines fly in and out of Ghana daily, and that is good enough. Air connectivity needs improvement in Africa, and we need good rates for African travelers, so we are working together to understand how we can achieve that to promote more tourism between our countries.
Can you tell us about the new tax to help fund the tourism industry?
The Tourism Development Fund (TDF) was established in 2012 by Tourism act 817 and its secretariat created eight months ago. The idea behind the TDF is to secure funding for the development of the tourism industry in Ghana. It includes seed money from the government as well as revenue from the 1% levy on tourism patrons, when they use hotels or other tourism facilities. We will also use money from the fund in other investments to raise more funds for the tourism sector and improve tourism sites, while also funding training. It will be a big relief for the tourism sector in terms of financing. It is thanks to these funds that we are able to attend international conferences to promote Ghanaian tourism. Our flagship project this year is the Efua Sutherland Children's Park in Accra. The fund is going to develop it into a state-of-the-art shopping park, which will spur international, regional, and local tourism. The fund has also purchased 10 brand new pickup vehicles for the tourism offices in Ghana.
What are the most important tourism hubs and popular tourism sites in Ghana?
For animal lovers, the north is the place to be, with Mole National Park. That is a great place for eco-tourism and seeing animals in their natural habitat. For lovers of forts and castles and other historical sites, central Ghana is the place to visit. For lovers of luxury vacationing, plush hotels, restaurants, and shopping, the central region, Western region, Ashanti region, and the Brong-Ahafo region are the best places to visit.
Can you tell us more about the National Tourism Development Plan that was formulated and adopted in 2013?
That is a 15-year plan. We have short-, medium-, and long-term plans; the National Tourism Development Plan is our long-term plan. In terms of our short-term plan, we are looking at training people and improving tourism services. We trained 20,000 people in all areas last year. We expect to apply some money from the fund to train hoteliers and hotel staff as well. We are also developing our tourism as well as the Efua Sutherland Children's Park. Our biggest project in 2016 will be the Marine Drive Development Project. We want to develop that into a state of the art tourism enclave like the one in Cape Town. It will have hotels, restaurants, casinos, children's parks, and other similar facilities. We want investors to come and see what we are offering and invest in that project. The government is enabling an environment there for the private sector to thrive. If a businessman wants a portion of that land, he or she can get a title free of any litigation or hindrance, so there is a lot of potential there.
How closely do you work with the private sector?
We work closely with the private sector. The Ghana Tourism Federation is the umbrella organization for all Ghanaian tourism trade associations, from car rentals to hotels, pubs, and restaurants. We work closely and liaise regularly with the Ghana Tourism Federation to understand how we can help them and to solve the challenges they face in their business and throughout the industry in general.
What are your plans for 2016?
We want to consolidate the gains we have made thus far. We are now the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, so this year we are paying a lot of attention to the creative arts industry, which is relatively young in Ghana. The Ghana Tourism Authority is in charge of tourism. In terms of culture, we also have the Commission of Culture. I want to set up a Creative Art Secretariat this year. I am also looking forward to consolidating the gains we have seen in the Marine Drive Development Project. All of the technical consultations have been done, and we want to get started on that project as soon as possible.