Interview: Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare

How can the country promote leisure travel?

ELIZABETH OFOSU-ADJARE: This is being done through the comprehensive, ongoing advertisement of tourist facilities and attractions through electronic and print media and interactive websites for the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) and the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA).

The MoT is also taking steps to encourage tourism service providers to intensify domestic tourism promotional efforts and create a supportive environment for travellers. Through the GTA, the MoT has instituted the National Tourism Awards to promote the “Explore Ghana” domestic tourism initiative.

Aggressively marketing the country externally as a safe, attractive destination and entertainment hub is also important, with an aim to attract leisure and business travellers. This continues to be done through participation in international fairs and exhibitions. We are also rebranding numerous attraction sites in the country by introducing periodic value-added products such as entertainment with authentic Ghanaian musical and theatrical performances.

Ghanaians in the diaspora also need to be educated by Ghana’s missions abroad on the numerous leisure products and markets, so they can become brand ambassadors. Indeed, the MoT trains all Ghanaian diplomats on the country’s wealth of tourism sites, culture and creative arts prior to their duty posts.

Beyond promotional efforts, the country can invest directly in attractions and infrastructure. Currently, the government is introducing an eco-brigade concept to ensure clean and well-kept beaches, as well as seeking funding to facelift castles, forts and other monumental heritage sites and tourist facilities.

Supporting infrastructure must also be addressed, like road networks linking accommodations to tourist sites. Similarly, we must encourage the private sector to build accommodations in proximity to tourist sites. The surrounding environment needs to depict our culture with a touch of modernity, such as the government campaign to promote “made in Ghana” goods.

What is the growth outlook for domestic tourism?

OFOSU-ADJARE: Domestic tourism is the greatest opportunity to grow the country’s tourism industry, and is a result of Ghana’s abundance of natural, cultural, historical and heritage sites. Given threats to global travel from factors like war, the cost of flights and Ebola, domestic tourism is the way to go.

The MoT is piloting a school travel programme that supports youth visits to other parts of the country and is encouraging schools to institutionalise termly excursions and tours as part of their extracurricular activities. The government is also encouraging corporate organisations to visit tourist sites in the country with their staff at least once a year.

Novel programmes like Homofest (homogeneous festival) in the Greater Accra Region, which brings together traditional rulers in the area to display their rich heritage to the entire country and the world, have the potential to be replicated in other regions. To this end, the MoT is introducing the Corporate Ghana Paraglide festival, among other programmes. As such, the outlook for domestic tourism is bright.

How is hospitality training being improved?

OFOSU-ADJARE: Several public and private organisations are offering hospitality training, especially at the tertiary level in polytechnic and private institutions and universities. The main challenge is training lower- to middle-level personnel. The Hotel, Tourism and Catering Training Institute was established in order to address this challenge, and is now undergoing restructuring to transform it into a state-of-the-art hospitality and tourism training academy.

Ghana’s private sector is already on board, with the Ghana Tourism Federation – the private umbrella body of all tourism operators in the country – having secured funding to train nearly 19,000 informal sector operators (like traditional caterers) across the country from the Skills Development Fund of the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training.