HAPPY WORLD TOURISM DAY GHANA (1)

Posted on September 27, 2012

2


Just posted the same sentiment on Twitter with the kicker…”Here’s hoping for increased political will in support of the tourism industry in Ghana.”

In the past two weeks, I’ve attended three meetings related to hotels and tourism. I was going to write separate posts on all three meetings, but I feel ambitious on this momentous day.

Meeting 1 was sponsored by the Ministry of Trade and Industry along with the local Ghana Tourism Authority. The former has hired a Dutch consulting firm to work in the tourism sector promoting value added chains to maximize co-operation and revenue sharing between four selected regions.

Tourism operators in Ashanti


Meetings 2 was called by the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly Finance and Budgetary Committee. We were four members of the Ashanti Region Ghana Hotels Association in attendance facing their fifteen members all in the small office of the Chairman of the committee. Surreal…

Meeting 3 concerned the new tourism act 817. Details on the banner.

Well, like everything here, all three meetings started late. Meetings one and three had the government protagonists missing. Nobody showed up from the Dutch consulting firm for this initial meeting and yet the word synergy featured in their handouts! So much for this initiative….

And guess who didn’t show up for the Ministry of Tourism workshop. I don’t think we’ve ever seen our Minister of Tourism in these parts. She was scheduled to attend, but “she was called back to Accra on urgent business!” The Deputy Regional Minister had to fill in for her…what else is new.

Anyways, two of the meeting mostly concerned tax grabs in the tourism sector. The only item on the agenda for the meeting (2) with the Kumasi authorities stated “The Financial Responsibilities of Hotels to the Kumasi Metropolitan Authority”. The one and only topic of the meeting was just how much they were going to raise our business operating licenses. When we four representatives tried to steer the meeting onto the subject of the K.M.A.’s responsibilities to the hotels, we were stonewalled by “that’s the subject of another meeting…”

But it was the “Sensitization” workshop no.3, that convinced me that all the talk about tourism development and the recent hype touting it as the third largest earner of foreign exchange is simply a charade. Travellers will come to Ghana for business, mostly extracting Ghana’s rich natural resources, and for aid related projects, but not many as tourists. And I think the powers-that-be realize this, in other words that tourism=spinoffs.

One of the main sections in the tourism act is the implementation of a 1% tourism tax that the patron pays. Arguments put forth by government officials stated that Kenya and South Africa embarked on the exercise and look at their results. Well in both countries the patron did not pay the tax; it was the businesses. And much of the money accrued from the tax in these countries went solely into marketing. Here in Ghana it is supposed to go into tourism infrastructure development as well as marketing. Mark my words most will go into the former since there is such a crying need for work to be done on attraction sites and facilities. See my next post for a prime example.

At the open forum following the official presentations, I stated the above points and said that Ghana is fast becoming an expensive destination what with increased VISA fees, airline tickets and staggering rates at Accra hotels. I asked what happened to the 15% VAT people have been paying when patronizing tourist establishments? Why isn’t any of that money going into tourism development. I said the tax might backfire just on principle with the few foreign tourists thinking, “Why should I pay another tax? Can’t they do anything for themselves?”

So….some projects will be undertaken and some attraction sites will improve, but how many tourists will be coming unless the lion’s share is put into marketing and promotion of this fascinating destination..

To conclude, it just seems that nobody has any faith and trust in tourism establishments, sites and infrastructure…I guess all the decision makers, the parliamentarians and tourism officials, travel abroad and come back saying to themselves, “We can’t do that…so why invest in it.” That’s my inkling…

HAPPY WORLD TOURISM DAY!

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