As Ghana’s tourism sector has grown, there has been a widespread feeling that one of the biggest challenges it faces is human resources. The authorities are now working to address this by participating in international training programmes and developing a new tourism university to support the sector.

Counting Up

Ghana ranks 129th in the world in terms of the proportion of the workforce that is employed in tourism. In a country with a growing population, building up this labour-intensive sector to expand its contribution to job creation seems an obvious strategy. Tourism and travel directly employed 124,500 people in Ghana in 2013, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Overall, the organisation calculates that tourism and travel employ 311,000 people directly and indirectly, equivalent to 5.8% of total employment.

The WTTC expects direct sector employment to rise by 2.4% a year – and combined direct and indirect employment by 2.3% a year – up to 2024. While this may seem a modest rate, in real terms it means that the sector will need an additional 3000-4000 people per year over the next decade – and with this based on the WTTC’s modest forecasts of tourism growth. On top of this, sector operators acknowledge that many current staff would benefit from formal training or retraining to drive standards of service up.

Currently, Ghana’s vocational and higher education institutions have limited capacity to deliver trained staff for these new jobs. “There is a need to improve customer service – that is one area in which we have a particular challenge,” Sampson Donkoh, the deputy executive director of the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), told OBG. “It’s not been the best and we have a long way to go. That is partly due to the absence of an international-class tourism school.”

Tourism School

While a number of schools, colleges and universities offer courses in tourism and leisure management, or related fields, the GTA is looking to establish a dedicated tourism school delivering international-standard education. The authority aims to set up the school in a public-private partnership with an international hospitality institution to deliver the “professional, hands-on aspect” of training that is currently lacking. One possible model would see the foreign institution send its own staff to train the workers at the Ghanaian school, transferring knowledge and skills for the longer term.

Kwasi Anim-Larbi, a human resource officer at the GTA, told OBG that it hopes to have finalised plans for the tourism school by autumn 2015, launching day-to-day training programmes immediately. He described the institution as a win-win for Ghana and the partner university. “It will bring immense benefits,” said Anim-Larbi. “The tourism industry needs to be developed – we have the product but we lack the service quality. A foreign institution needs to come in to develop this.” Ghana’s growing range of five-star hotels and top resorts in particular need well-trained staff. Anim-Larbi said that the partner would benefit from the high demand from Ghanaian students for education and jobs in tourism, as well as gaining valuable experience of a fast-growing tourism sector.

GTA Efforts

The GTA is to appoint an official to oversee training in the sector. It is also focusing on the professional development of its own staff members, so they can bring greater expertise and a broader skill set to the industry on the ground. Authority employees are also sent on training programmes around the world, to countries like China, Japan and South Africa. Financial support for the programmes comes from sources which include the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Chinese Embassy in Ghana and the Indian government. Anim-Larbi told OBG that he views Japan as a model of tourism service standards, while within Africa, Kenya and South Africa stand out, with Ghana having a great deal to learn from professionals and institutions in all of these countries.