Posted on November 29, 2010


I am prompted to write this post by something I read in a competitor’s review on Trip Advisor:

“Service was very friendly & obliging – with the girls doing all the heavy portering! Even my offered tip was gracefully declined.”

Ugh….is that something to celebrate? Is that a quality of good service? Where else in the world would this happen but in the third world. But this is not a political post-stick to tipping in Ghanaian tourism establishments, madinghana.

Tipping is dealt with both in the Bradt Guide to Ghana and Culture Smart: Ghana-both books indispensable for a trip to Ghana, this great destination.

Both books talk about tipping tour guides at tourist sites; but both conclude that tipping is generally not part of the culture and people are not expecting to be tipped.

So is it “When in Ghana do as the Ghanaians do” and generally not tip?

Well, coming from a different culture where it is near downright near compulsory to tip staff in hotels and restaurants, I’ve had a hard time over the years coming to terms with travelers generally leaving NOTHING when jobs are well done! Why should a different ethic, not shared, determine behaviour.

And then consider such stark realities in the third world as people working in low level positions earning the equivalent of two dollars a day and the consequent affect that has on their quality of life and I might add the quality of the service rendered.

In the past, yes, Ghanaians had very little disposable income and thus frequented basic places where they expected to pay to the pesewa and service personnel expected nothing. But now things have changed. People have more disposable income. Gone are the days when 50% of workers in the formal, public sector (10% of the economy) were government employees. Now, there has been a surge in foreign investment and the Diasporan Ghanaian returns with capital and if not their remittances represent #3 in foreign exchange earnings. So with changing economic realities, consequent changes in everyday accepted behaviour must follow.

So, don’t think, oh that waiter, chambermaid etc doesn’t expect a tip, is proud and would be offended if I offered a tip. No! Like anywhere in this world suffering hard economic times, it IS harder to make ends meet, to improve on quality of life. And what’s more, that waiter/chambermaid etc. has responsibilities. He or she may be going to school or helps to put food on the family table….

Hey,think of tipping as a form of AID on a one to one basis. It does add up over the days, weeks, and months. Na, it’s better than AID-you are honouring the situation. You got good service…the owner has got his reward…now how about the lowly people who are indispensable to the business..who are often not rewarded for the long hard hours they put in “portering” etc.

At Four Villages Inn, where our clientele is upmarket and generally foreign, we would hope that our hard working staff is tipped-like people would be back there…

So about five or six years ago, I put the following notice in each of our four rooms:

When people check out and leave a tip, madinghana divides the amount by 5 (the number of Four Villages Inn employees) and makes sure that each member of staff receives his fair share.

Well, since then, Four Villages Inn has kept staff longer-in an industry where there is high turnover. Staff performance is better. I can almost read the thoughts, “Hey, if I do my job well, I’ll get even more reward, tips from the guests and compliments from my boss.”

In a tipping society, it’s win, win, win, and win: customer, worker, owner and the tourism industry in Ghana!

So next time, it will be nice to read, “even my offered tip was gracefully declined, but I gracefully insisted.”

Sure would welcome your thoughts on this subject-tourist, hotel owner, worker, tourism official…whoever…