Tourism currently plays a relatively moderate but growing role in the economy of Ghana. Tourism is currently the fastest growing sector of the Ghanaian economy (The real tourism GDP grew by 10.3% in 2004 and 12.28% in 2005).
It is currently considered to be the fourth largest source of foreign exchange earnings (estimated at US$650 million in 2005), and contributes approximately 5% to the country’s GDP. In terms of its contribution to formal employment, the tourism industry employs an estimated 150,000 – 200,000 people directly and indirectly.
Tourist arrivals in Ghana have steadily increased over the past 15 years from approximately 145,000 in 1990 to 600,000 in 2004. Ghana receives visitors from various parts of the world. The principal source markets in order of importance are Ghanaians abroad, the West African sub-region (Nigeria, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire), Northern Europe (UK, Germany, France, The Netherlands), and North America (mainly US). The majority of visitors tend to be business travellers and those visiting friends and relatives (VFRs). Ghana is also attracting visitors through promoting itself as homeland for the African Diaspora.
As a means of tackling unemployment in Ghana, tourism has considerable potential. The Ghana Draft National Tourism Policy 2006 acknowledged that
Apart from generating foreign exchange earnings and revenue for governments, tourism has the potential to become a powerful tool in pro-poor development strategies. It has the ability to create jobs and wealth for local economies, as well as contribute to conserving natural resources. It is envisaged that tourism will be one of the pillars of productive and a sustainable source of national revenue, decent employment and poverty reduction.
Tourism is the world’s largest generator of jobs as tourism is labour-intensive. The tourism industry has the lowest ratio of investment to job creation and tourism employs a multiplicity of skills many of which can be learned on-the-job. Tourism can also drive other sectors of the economy as there is an enormous potential for both forward and backward linkages to other sectors especially the hospitality, agricultural, and manufacturing, transport and construction sectors. Tourism can create entrepreneurial opportunities in both the formal and informal sector. The tourism industry, perhaps more than any other economic sector, has the potential to provide a wide range of opportunities for involving and benefiting Ghanaians, including:
- Operators of tourism facilities (accommodation, restaurant, bars, clubs, cultural shows, traditional music and dance venue, etc.)
- Service providers for tourists (travel agency, tour guides, transport, etc).
- Suppliers of goods to tourism businesses (art and crafts, construction material, vegetables, fruits, herbs, etc).
- Service providers to tourism businesses (e.g. traditional dance and music, crafts making activities, story-telling, drama, staff training, secretarial, marketing, booking, laundry, maintenance, construction, gardening, landscaping, transportation, etc.
The tourist industry can also build cross-cultural relations and contribute to nation building, influence visitor awareness of, and create export markets for, local goods. It can help strengthen rural communities by bringing development to rural areas where many of the prime tourism attractions are located. This allows rural people to share in the benefits of tourism development. Furthermore it can contribute to protecting the environment, particularly when the tourism activity is reliant on the maintenance and restoration of the landscape and its natural features (lakes, rivers, estuaries, beaches, forests, wetlands, and wildlife areas). Finally, tourism can contribute to greater gender equality, as a higher proportion of tourism benefits, in the form of employment and informal trade opportunities, go to women. Tourism employs more women (and youth) than most other industries.
Governmental tourism policy in Ghana can be understood to be inclined towards supporting and nurturing a variety of different varieties of tourism that can have positive social and environmental as well as economic outputs :
- Community Tourism – Community based tourism usually seeks to promote tourism initiatives of local communities and individuals at grassroots level and often has a focus on poverty reduction, social empowerment, and environmental conservation.
- Cultural Tourism – Travel to places for purposes of observing and participating in cultural aspects of interest to the visitor and may include the customs and traditions of people, their heritage, history and way of life.
- Ecotourism – Environmentally and socially responsible travel to natural or near natural areas that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local people.
- Pro-Poor Tourism – An approach to tourism; one in which tourism aims to generate net economic, socials, environmental, and cultural benefits for the poor by unlocking opportunities for the poor within tourism.
- Responsible Tourism – Responsible tourism implies a proactive role by all tourism stakeholders to develop, market, and manage the tourism industry in a responsible manner; responsible for the environment through its sustainable use; responsible for the well-being of local communities in the tourism industry; responsible for the preservation of local cultures; responsible for the safety and security of visitors.
- Sustainable Tourism – Sustainable tourism development meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future. It is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such as way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems.
In terms of development goals, therefore, the strategy identifies the need
To develop a selective number of high quality tourism products that would build on Ghana’s inherent attractions and cater for specific niche markets. This will entail a focus on Ghana’s strong points; cultural heritage and historical heritage. Elements of Ghana’s natural heritage, such as its flora, fauna, beach, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls are considered as being of secondary importance, complementing Ghana’s main cultural and historical attractions.
To this end, the Strategy calls for a variety of measures :
- To ensure that as many opportunities as possible are created for the involvement in, and benefiting from, tourism by local entrepreneurs and communities in terms of employment, income generation, training and awareness, and access to better social infrastructure.
- Promote the development of new types of tourism products (e.g. educational, sports-, medicinal-, agro-tourism) and encourage the provision of facilities, training, marketing and promotion to give emphasis to the development of these types.
- Encourage horizontal integration across sectors and businesses to create synergy and improve competitiveness.
- Emphasize the development of products that offer good opportunities for involvement of local entrepreneurs and communities (i.e. filling gaps in the tourism supply chain).
- Foster the development of community-based tourism products, and encourage tourism facilities and services to reflect Ghanaian culture, architecture and materials (e.g. in accommodation, food, etc).
- Promote developments that are appropriate to the structures and strategies of local governments and communities.
- Encourage the established tourism enterprises to take full note, and attempt to make use, of the natural, cultural and historical heritage resources within specific communities and environments; and maximise use of local inputs/resources.
- Manage cultural and historical resources to the negotiated benefit of all interested parties within the communities.
- Encourage communities and districts to make inventories of actual and potential resources that are available for tourism.
However, while recognising the potential of the tourist industry to tackle poverty and create employment, a number of obstacles prevent the realisation of Ghana’s considerable tourism potential.
While the tourism industry has tremendous potential to create jobs and provide on the job training, the Government recognizes that appropriate skills and experience are necessary to facilitate employment growth as well as international competitiveness. The industry is currently faced with a critical shortage of skills at all levels. Tourism and hospitality training institutes are inadequate in terms of their ability to meet the required quantity and quality of skilled and well-trained people to be employed in the industry.
The strategy does, however, attach considerable emphasis to the importance of the role of communities in the sustainable development of tourism attractions.
The roles of communities in tourism is therefore to :
- Identify potential tourism resources and attractions.
- Organize themselves to exploit opportunities for tourism development, as entrepreneurs, entertainers, travel agents, tour guides, restaurateurs, workers, managers, guest house operators and other roles in the tourism business environment.
- Support and promote sustainable and responsible tourism.
- Ensure that benefits from tourism are equitably distributed and used for the betterment of living conditions, and in particular ensure equality in the conditions of employment of women.
- Promote and where possible ensure respect for and dignity of women in the development, marketing and promotion of tourism.
- Lobby the support of developers and local authorities for the provision of services and infrastructure to enhance the position of women in communities.
- Secure the provision of craft training and other opportunities to expand the skills base of rural women.