Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the Vice President on Tuesday opened the fourth edition of the World Tourism Forum, Africa Summit in Accra.
The summit which is the first of its kind in Africa is a global event principally intended to develop tourism around the world.
Dr Bawumia said Ghana’s tourism sector has seen study growth over the years and the summit is important as it aligns with its goals of positioning itself as a major tourism hub in the continent.
The forum is a global event established to bring experts, enthusiasts, key players, and stakeholders in the tourism industry to promote investment and fill the gap in international tourism.
“It is our believe that the choice of topics for this year’s event would indeed reflect many African nations’ goals to position themselves as key players in the global tourism industry,” he said.
The Vice President said government is committed to the tourism industry goals and is working very hard to ensure that they are achieved within the next few years, adding that the country is lucky to have been selected among a host of other qualified nations to host the event.
As a country, Ghana is focused on building new and upgrading existing infrastructure to support the tourism industry, including the expansion of Ghana’s international airport as well as the establishment of the marine drive project in Accra.
Dr Bawumia said “tourism is a major priority to our government’s development agenda, and as such we have revamped the ministry of tourism and appointed a high-level Cabinet member as Minster, to ensure that Ghana moves to become a major tourism player globally”.
He said tourism alone contributes about three percent to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Products and provides thousands of jobs in the country.
He said the expected growth path of the tourism sector, according to the National Tourism Development plan is to double tourism revenues by the year 2027 from its current 2.2 billion dollars.
“To achieve this target, government has set itself in the path of providing a conducive environment for tourism investment, easing business pressure on tourism operators, and reintroduction of appropriate incentives to boost growth,” he said.
The strategy is to build on a solid base and expand tourism across the country into new market segments, improve infrastructure within the sector through investment and pursuing mutually beneficial partnership with investors and other nations within sub-Saharan Africa to expand the market.
The Vice President, said government was working to transform the nation into a major meeting, executive conference and exhibiting hub, saying “our goal is to make Ghana among the top preferred tourism destination globally”.
He noted that the industry is a multi-billion industry and Ghana must make sure to have a share.
“We in Africa are already blessed with a conducive climate and natural resources, and eco-tourism should therefore come easy to us once we focus on building the right infrastructure as well as fostering security within our country so that tourist remain safe and protected,” he said.
He further stated that Ghana is currently cooperating with other West African countries to facilitate movement within the African region as part of the continental initiative to facilitate visa-free movement within the several regions in Africa.
Dr Bawumia noted that there were still areas that needed improvement to boost the tourism industry, and therefore encouraged African countries to open up their air spaces by reducing the prices of inter-country flights so that tourism can be boosted within the borders.
Mrs Catherine Abelema Afeku, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture said the forum is a global tourism event held in different parts of the world to further boost global tourism, and pays particular attention to the relationship between local and global tourism trends as well as strategies for more sustainable tourism growth.
She said the forum brought together tourism industry players to shed light on heritage tourism, tourism investments, adventure tourism, destination management, and e-tourism.
She said the conversations would continue on how to harness Africa’s huge opportunities in the film, arts, fashion, food and music industry to create the desired growth through jobs for the citizens.
Mrs Afeku expressed appreciation to the leadership of the World Tourism Forum for believing in Ghana and also to open the hidden treasures of Ghana.
Mr Bulut Bagci, President of the Executive Board, World Tourism Forum said the Forum is an Instanbul-based organisation which started in 2014 and has become one of the world largest avenue to promote global tourism.
He said the forum is organized four times in a year in global centers around the world and it brings together global tourism leaders and tourism industry representatives.
He said in the past, the forum was held in Turkey, Dubai and Russia and Ghana is the first African country to host the fourth edition, urging Ghanaians to see this as an opportunity for investment.
Mr Bagci said Ghana is known as the Gateway to Africa because of its economic and political stability, as well as the global recognition of its tourism potential, saying it is a role model for both Africa and the world.