The government of Ghana has been steadily developing the country’s tourism sector in an effort to make it the main foreign exchange earner for the country and improve the livelihoods of rural populations. The introduction of the 15-year National Tourism Development Plan 2013-27 and the expansion of responsibilities for the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) in 2011 have supported diversification in the sector. Further improvements have been achieved through funding from donors such as the World Bank. Having expanded both the leisure and business tourism segments, Ghana has established a clear roadmap to further diversify the sector by expanding its source markets, developing tourist infrastructure across the country, and promoting both domestic and regional travel.

Development Drive

In 2018 the World Bank signed a $40m financing agreement with the government of Ghana for a tourism development project (GTDP) aimed at growing and diversifying Ghana’s tourism sector. The first component of the project, valued at $4.5m, focuses on enhancing the ecosystem through industry training, branding and marketing. The second, allocated $20m, identifies and upgrades promising destination areas. The third, with $10m, supports grants and business development services training. The fourth, awarded $5.5m, emphasises project management and institutional strengthening, aiding the Ministry of Tourism, Art and Culture (MoTAC) in project coordination.

While the project was expected to conclude in September 2023, the most recent status report from the World Bank from July 2022 indicated that the overall performance has been moderately satisfactory. Highlights include a rebound in domestic tourism and private investment, with notable progress in the private grants program for tourism sites and small businesses.

Beyond Accra

The capital city of Accra, with its wide selection of hotels, historical sites, and international events, is now a destination for both leisure and business tourism. Nevertheless, promoting the rest of the country as a tourist destination has been more challenging, primarily due to a lack of global awareness.

Using the funding from the GTDP, MoTAC is investing in new infrastructure at tourist facilities at Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, Akansa Forest Reserve and Kintampo Waterfall. MoTAC is focused on developing Ghana’s ecotourism sites, which are largely located in rural areas, in an effort to support sustainable tourism and the livelihoods of rural populations.

The GTA had also designated funds from the GTDP to provide training for regional heads, community leaders and site managers targeting sustainable tourism to support the implementation of the government strategy. Service operators will receive training to manage tourist sites, with development programmes geared towards aiding rural communities in preparing for tourist arrivals to ensure a positive visitor experience. In addition, the GTDP launched a training session in April 2023 for Ghanaian filmmakers to spur the creation of promotional marketing materials.

Diversification Potential

MoTAC and the GTA have collaborated in recent years to expand Ghana’s tourism source markets and draw its large diaspora population from around the world. In addition, they are developing the country’s business tourism through investment in meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions facilities, shown by its entrance into the International Congress and Conventions Association.

Ghana’s tourism sector holds substantial potential for diversification over the coming decade. Greater investment in niche tourism, including ecotourism, adventure tourism and agri-tourism – with a focus on its cocoa industry – could help the country attract a broader range of regional and international tourists to destinations across the country. Furthermore, the promotion of Ghanaian art and heritage could help Ghana stand out in the West Africa region by offering a distinct product, and inviting visitors to understand more about the country’s rich history and unique cultural traditions.