Interview: Akwasi Agyeman

What can be done to increase the economic impact of tourism across the country?

AKWASI AGYEMAN: One of the main constraints to the expansion of the economic impact of tourism in Ghana is the availability of offers. In this regard, Ghana is focusing on three keys areas: promoting investments, capacity building and marketing. In terms of promoting investments, more hotels need to be built and more attractions need to be developed. Capacity building translates into the goal of improving the overall quality of services and developing skills to ensure that they are on par with international standards. When it comes to communications, the country needs to be positioned as a preferred tourism destination, as opposed to just a place where a business or casual visitor decides to explore.

To achieve this result, the fundamentals have to be done right. In order to attract more investment, the GTA is working closely with the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre to promote the Tourism Investment Promotion Act, which, among other things, will provide tax holidays, import duty holidays, and other incentives to make investments in tourism and hospitality more attractive.

In terms of capacity building, in the sector a hospitality training school is going to be established. The school will be based in Accra, but the aim going forward is to set up satellite campuses in different regions, next to hotels. These institutions be established through public-private partnerships. This will have an impact on the quality and quantity of accommodation offerings, which need to be expanded, especially when it comes to three-star hotels and above.

How is Ghana diversifying its sources of visitors?

AGYEMAN: One of Ghana’s core markets is the US. The country is exploring ways to strengthen the number of tourists coming from there by highlighting the African roots of many US citizens. For Europe, we are targeting the UK market, as well as second-generation Ghanaians in other countries, and those who seek to reconnect with their origins. In addition, the Asian market will grow in importance, especially China, which is a country that we are working on a scheme for that could add around 200,000 tourists per year.

The GTA is setting up specialists for each of Ghana’s main tourist markets, including Europe, the US, Africa and Asia, in order to understand their preferences and implement stronger links with tour operators in each region, however, diversifying our sources of visitors is also important for growth. Diversification is the perfect incentive for Ghana to offer a wider variety of options. For example, some markets are more focused on wildlife, others on cultural tourism and others just enjoy leisure. This diversification can have an impact on our efficiency and costs, and has the potential to generate a virtuous circle of increased affordability, demand and even more growth. Another relevant area is conference tourism. Currently, the country is working on the Marine Drive Project, which will be a mixed development of tourism facilities.

To what extent is there room to help streamline services geared toward investors?

AGYEMAN: The key factors to closely monitor as we move towards diversification and more efficiency in the sector are the adequacy of air connections, visa restrictions and suitable accommodation. The upcoming Tourism Destination Single Window (TDSW) seeks to integrate all of our core components.

In the same platform, investors would be able to apply for licences and seek partners. In addition, established players could pay levies. It would also include training modules and add micro-sites for each registered establishment, which would handle hotel reservations. The TDSW will be complemented by a call centre and will tackle our core priorities for the sector. Overall, the TDSW will create a more efficient environment that will incentivise competition and eventually make Ghana a destination that provides more value to each visitor.