GHANA TOURISM-IN DANGER

Posted on June 6, 2010

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This post is about doing business. This time it’s about foreign travel agents and bookings. It’s about the adverse effect of foreign travel agents working with their Ghanaian counterparts. . No names will be mentioned to protect the guilty…and us!

I’ve always said, “Ghana is in danger, if it isn’t already, of becoming a high cost destination.” A couple of years ago the Mercer survey found Accra, the most expensive city in Africa. Thankfully, Accra lost that ignoble distinction to Luanda, Angola for obvious reasons. But now that oil has been discovered in large quantities in Ghana, Ghana had better pay attention to her travel industry. The incident I attempt to retell hints at the feeding frenzy that is presently going on and what is sure to exacerbate in the future.

To preface this post, I’d like to first quote from our FOUR VILLAGES INN website regarding travel agencies:

“Wonderful, you’ve found us! If you like what you see, book with us directly by filling out our easy to use Reservation Form. Please don’t leave it to your travel agent. We are just too small to pay their hefty commissions. And, if you have any additional needs, you can always e-mail us directly. Thank you.”

This comment was prompted by the fact that not one travel agency would send us clients-despite F.V.I. offering a 10% commission- unless the client specifically requested FOUR VILLAGES INN. Accordingly, F.V.I. would not offer the travel agency any commission or discount since it was our advertising dollar that attracted the client.

Now to the story…. Actually, there are two stories. I’ll tell the story of the booking in this post. And then the story of the kente in the next post.

A local travel agent working with a travel agency in the U.S. specializing in Ghana booked a couple-we’ll call them K. and D.- a suite at the five star Labadi Beach Hotel.for three nights in Accra. From there, two nights were booked at FOUR VILLAGES although the original itinerary had them booked at the four star Golden Tulip- Kumasi City, a night in a suite at The Coconut Grove in Cape Coast, followed by a last night in Ghana back at the Labadi Beach Hotel.

So the couple travels to Kumasi and arrives at Four Villages. I show them to one of our four rooms. First thing he asks, “How did you choose this room for us?”, asks D.who I find out later is a high-power Washington lawyer who happens to own a sports team in a Middle East country.. In the over ten years we have been in business, I have never been asked that question!

Taken aback I just blurt out the truth as I am prone to do “It’s my personal favourite!” I take him to two other rooms. The last room was occupied. With no further comment, we go back to the room I had placed them in. Sure must have been a shock for the couple to go from the rigid opulence of Labadi to the relaxed homeliness of Four Villages.

It wasn’t till the second day that things started to thaw….It was then that D. mentioned that he thought he had paid too much for his six day trip around Ghana. He gave me a ball park figure between US$6,000 and US$7,000! I told him the total bill at Four Villages for the two nights and the two suppers for two was US$262 and raised my eyebrows.

We parted with HUGS all around.

Here is what D. wrote in the guest book upon leaving:

“OUR NEW HOME AWAY FROM HOME IN GHANA. LOVE THE ‘HILLAL’ SAUSAGES-KOSHER IN GHANA-AND TO OUR NEWEST FAN OF BARAK NETANYA!”

A few days later, the U.S.travel agent specializing in West Africa called. He asked me pointedly if I had told D. that he was charged too much. I said no indicating that it was his conclusion. I did remark to the U.S. travel agent that I couldn’t understand why the travel agency changed the booking to us. He said that the wife had requested us. And….he said he hadn’t decided to save money. Suspicious, I-emailed K. to ask if this was true and her prompt reply was “No, It is not true.”

So I write again to the travel agent in the States. I get an e-mail back saying I misunderstood! What was there to misunderstand-Four Villages was requested or not and the couple thought they were going to the four star Golden Tulip.

He went on to explain that, as with ever client, they do a profile, and make decisions based on that profile. He also said that there were three travel agencies involved-the American Express office where the couple went, himself-specializing in West Africa, and the agents here in Ghana. He said that the suite at the Labadi Beach was US$720 a night, without food!

Madinghana’s comment: Why in heaven’s name a suite at Labadi Beach? And for four nights! The couple were visiting their daughter who was studying for a semester at an Accra university. They weren’t on expense account like THE DEVELOPMENT SET who work for the U.N., World Bank, I.M.F. and other aid and diplomatic mission staff that frequent the outrageously priced foreign four/five star hotels.

CONCLUSION: Like the last post-do your homework and book direct with hospitality establishments.
and…..that’s one travel agent that won’t come back to FOUR VILLAGES INN!

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