As Ghana seeks to highlight itself as a compelling alternative to more developed African tourism markets – Kenya and South Africa, for example – positioning the country as a unique and worthwhile destination still requires some marketing work. As Leeford Quarshie, general manager of La Villa Boutique Hotel, told OBG, “There is the need to brand and position this country to the outside world, through travel shows, trade fairs or publications. A lot of people still think that Africa is one big country; they still do not know that Ghana is different from Nigeria, Togo or Côte d’Ivoire.”
As reported in local press, in October 2016 Accra opened its first information centre for tourists in an effort to promote Ghana’s leisure activities. Built with support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency and located near Kotoka International Airport, the Accra Tourist Information Centre plans to provide tourists with visit guidance and convenient travel amenities. Another key initiative laid out in the budget statement and the government’s economic policy for FY 2017 was a promotional talking point: the Marine Drive Tourism Investment Project, which began construction in 2017, is a 97-ha scheme to develop Accra’s beachfront into a tourist zone.
As noted in the 2017 budget, Ghana is also undertaking international initiatives to put itself on the map and draw in additional tourists: the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture participated in six international tourism fairs throughout 2016, from Chicago to Ankara.
This overseas promotion continued in 2017. In March 2017 Catherine Afeku, the minister of tourism, arts and culture, travelled to China for the China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market to promote the Marine Drive Tourism Investment Project, as well as a tourism package created specifically for Chinese tourists.
The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), in collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana, completed an investment promotion trip to the US in June 2017 to highlight investment opportunities. In late 2016 the country also renewed a tourism advertising campaign deal with CNN to run a 60-second advert throughout 2017.
With global e-tourism rates on the rise, increased use of technology could bring untapped promotion potential. At the end of 2016 local press reported that the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) planned to activate a digital single window platform where all tourism sites are listed in a database. When operational, the platform will serve as a convenient information access point for tourists, which could be useful for both international and local markets as Ghana’s internet connectivity and smart-phone usage increases. According to online travel agency Jumia Travel, in 2016 Ghana’s smartphone user penetration reached 14%, making it the fourth-most popular smartphone market on the continent, and smartphone use is forecasted to reach 18m users in 2017. Internet penetration was even higher, at 27.8% of the country’s population as of March 2017.
Additionally, in late November 2017 the GTA in collaboration with the Forest Green Ghana launched a newspaper for the hospitality and tourism industry as well as www.mytourismgh.com, a website dedicated to the promotion of tourism, arts and culture.
The sector still has work to do in preparing its infrastructure to handle leisure tourism markets (see overview), but getting people excited about the country as a travel destination is another crucial step. This renewed focus on marketing could provide the right push to draw in more crowds. Ghana’s political stability must be emphasised in such promotional efforts. “In some parts of Africa, we could not sit down and talk like we are doing now without hearing gunfire,” said Quarshie. “We have peacefully completed smooth transfers of power from one government to another several times. That is huge for a country in our part of the world. There is no price one can place on peace.”
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