Business News of 2014-01-15

2014 is takeoff stage for tourism devt - GTA

The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) has lined up a series of activities and the implementation of some policy directives that it hopes to leverage on to attract more tourists into the country and subsequently increase earnings from the sector.

The new initiatives would include the maiden celebration of the country's geographic location to the centre of the globe; possible disbursement of the Tourism Levy, which is one per cent of a tourist's expenditure at a designated tourism facility; the completion of the restructuring of the authority and the passage of two legislative institutions that will further empower the authority to regulate and develop the sector.

"There are more activities that will take place and I will describe 2014 as the takeover stage for the development of tourism in Ghana," Mr Donkor told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on January 6.

Meridian Wall of Fame

Although most Ghanaians, especially those in the port city of Tema pride themselves of residing in a country that is on the centre of the earth, not much has been done by the authorities to leverage on that esteem location.

The Tourism Authority, which regulates the tourism industry, now wants to change that.

"This year in particular, we want to organise the Maridian Event in Tema to celebrate the fact that Ghana is lying directly on the Greenwich Meridian. We think our current location calls for celebration because we are the country closer to the Centre of the world. The equator is only five degrees from the mainland Ghana and we also have the Greenwich Meridian and where they meet is the centre of the world," the acting executive director of the authority said.

He explained that the authority had developed a concept that would actualise Tema's status as a Meridian city - one that lies closer to the Greenwich Meridian - and subsequently use it to market the entire country to the domestic and international tourist community.

Part of that concept, he said, involved the construction of a Meridian Wall of Fame on which domestic and international tourists will pay to have their names inscribed on it

"It will be attractive to be in the centre of the world, at least once in a lifetime, and that is why we think that it is opportune for one to pay and have his/her name inscribed on the wall to indicate that you were also in the centre of the earth on this date and time," he said.

Mr Donkor disclosed that the construction of the wall and the general celebration of Tema and Ghana for that matter as being closer to the centre of the earth would be done to coincide with the anniversary celebrations of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the country's first President, who was prided to have built Tema.

"The celebrations will climax on his birthday (September 21, at least, to honour him for creating Tema as an artificial town," he said, adding that it will feature a football gala, night of music, among other recreational activities.

The authority, he said, was now liaising with the relevant stakeholders such as the Tema Metropolitan Assembly, the Ghana Tourists Federation, the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), the Hoteliers Association and the Ghana Football Association (GFA), whom he said, were needed to help make the event a reality.

Expected tourism revenues

As of September, last year, the country had earned US$1.7 billion from 993,600 people who visited the various tourism sites within the nine-month period.

That compared favourably with the US$2.5 billion that was earned in 2012.

Going forward, the acting executive director said the authority anticipated a 10 to 12 per cents rise in both the revenues and arrivals in 2014.

That growth rate, he said, could even be higher given that the much-talk about disbursement of the Tourism Levy, collection of which started in October 2011, could start this year.

"The board that is suppose to be in place before the levy can be disbursed has just taken office and they may decide that the levy be disbursed to help in tourism promotion, marketing and infrastructural development," he said.

Once that was done, Mr Donkor said he was optimistic that tourist arrivals would pickup considerably, leading to a corresponding rise in the earnings.

Tourism is currently the fourth foreign exchange earner for the country and is now tipped to overtake gold, cocoa and petroleum as the premium foreign exchange earner in the coming years.