The 40th anniversary celebration of World Tourism Day: Tourism and rural development

Ghana Tourism Authority Ghana Tourism logo

Sat, 10 Oct 2020 Source: Akua Karle Okyere

Tourism, since its very dawn has seen multiple meanings and this is so in order to express its multifaceted essence.

From Hunziker and Kraft in 1941, defining tourism as the amount of phenomena and relationships arising from travel and residence of non-residents, to the degree that they do not lead to permanent residence and are not related to any earnings activity, to the later concept in 1976 by the Tourism Society of England that tourism is a temporary, short-term movement of people to destinations outside the places where they normally live and work, and their activities during their stay at these destinations; the repetitive trend of travel for pleasure or for business does not disappear in the plethora of definitions.

When you travel with family or alone from your home to another place in or out of your country for fun, leisure or business, knowing that in no more than a year you will return home at most, that is tourism right there and you become a tourist there. This brings the key forms of tourism sharply to mind: domestic and international tourism.

As their names so readily suggest, domestic tourism occurs within the country of the visitor, while international tourism occurs across national boundaries, such as traveling for pleasure and business to another country. There are many other ways or styles of tourism, of course, but the two main types, domestic and foreign, are at the very core of these different types or kinds. What would you prefer? Whatever sort it is, there is certainly a whole lot of enthusiasm associated with it.

Tourism remains a strong source of income for nations, but tourism has seen its own highs and lows in every form, as seas have low tides and high tides. As a result of the heavy economic downturn in the recession of the late 2000s between the second half of 2008 and the end of 2009, and also as a result of the influenza H1N1 virus in 2009, tourism declined. This was certainly a low tide season for tourism of some sort, but that was not the end of it as tourism recovered and shot up in a year or two from then, accounting for 30% of the world 's trade in service and invisible exports; and 6% of total goods and services in 2011.

Also, the global pandemic COVID-19 hit hard from the closing months of 2019 to this year, 2020, just as a low tide season in the tourism industry was experienced several years ago, and did not fail to trigger another low tide season in the tourism industry. Following travel restrictions in an attempt to monitor the spread of COVID-19, with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimating that global international tourist arrivals will decrease by 58 to 78% this year, the tourism industry has suffered a huge effect causing significant financial losses in international tourist receipts as international travel arrivals fell by 65% in the first six months of this year.

Anticipated travel has fallen by 80-90% in many world cities, according to BBC News. These figures reflect the measure of the effects the tourism industry has experienced in recent times as a result of unforeseen developments.

Admittedly, the industry is recovering, but the pandemic has profoundly affected the conduct of both domestic and international tourism, as protective measures are still being implemented to avoid further waves of the pandemic.

Every year since 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has celebrated World Tourism Day on September 27 as an international celebration. World Tourism Day is intended to raise awareness of the role of tourism in the international community and to show how it impacts worldwide social, cultural, political and economic values. This year is no exception, and for the first time in the history of World Tourism Day, a conglomerate of countries will be hosting this year's official celebration in an attempt to demonstrate the current need for international unity and cooperation. The theme for this year’s observance is “Tourism and Rural Development” and the host countries are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile. To bring attention home to Ghana; to the West African country with a population of over 27 million, one could wonder, "What is the significance of tourism to Ghana?" It is worth raising this question because many people concentrate solely on the excitement associated with tourism and often do not see its effects on the development of this country. Ghana has a variety of natural, historical , cultural and other man-made attractions and, to name a few of the impacts of tourism on Ghana, it is currently the fourth largest source of foreign exchange earnings estimated at USD 2.2 million in 2015.

Again, tourism contributes about 4.8% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country and employs an estimated 393,000 individuals directly and indirectly from hotels, restaurants, travel trade, entertainment , leisure, managers of tourist sites, among others. However, what else could be done to encourage tourism in Ghana with all these implications?

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Ghana governs tourism in Ghana and the government has made efforts to support the tourism industry in its mandate. Last year, 2019, the government of Ghana carried out a major campaign targeting African-Americans and the diaspora to visit Africa, specifically Ghana to enjoy and invest in its exciting culture and tourist attractions.

The "Year of Return" initiative focused on honoring emancipation from slavery and also acted as a marketing exercise to popularize Ghana as a tourist destination with a trans-Atlantic trade message. This year, 2020, under the Ghana Tourism Development Project (GTDP), the government of Ghana launched a USD 9 million tourism grant scheme aimed at rejuvenating the industry. Approximately 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in the tourism and hospitality sector are expected to benefit from the initiative, which is the first ever tourism business support programme in Ghana. These small and medium-sized businesses also provide the basis for the trip satisfaction assessment of an individual and while they are not large in nature as their names indicate, the services offered by these companies add up to the growth and attractiveness of the tourism industry.

These recent developments in Ghana's tourism industry indicate a passion for positioning Ghana as a strong tourist destination in Africa and the world as a whole, as this is described by the Ghana Tourism Authority's (GTA) goal of attracting 5 million tourists by 2027. Admittedly, in all of these, the industry also needs certain elements. The lack of legal approval for development plans unnecessarily delays progress because, among other factors, land acquisition problems hinder the execution of these plans. The shortage of skilled human resources to man tourist sites in Ghana is also a concern. These, combined with the lack of attention given to the development of certain tourist sites, such as the monkey sanctuaries in the West and the Hippo sanctuary in the Upper West, to name a few, cripple Ghana's holistic tourism development.

However, in the face of difficulties, the resilience and zeal of the tourism industry for growth cannot be overlooked. As part of its goal of promoting domestic tourism, the Ghana Tourism Authority launched a campaign under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. The goal of this campaign, entitled "See Ghana, Eat Ghana, Wear Ghana, Feel Ghana," was to ignite the Ghanaian people with a spirit of "Ghanaian-ness." This campaign, which saw the combination of cultural tones, popular sight and traditional food from the ten regions of Ghana at the time to evoke a sense of nationalism as it also featured entrepreneurs whose goods and services support domestic tourism is all in the attempt of GTA to promote domestic tourism in Ghana.

As the saying goes, "to whom much is given, much is expected," GTA does not rest but continues to prepare for the holistic growth of tourism in Ghana and the achievement of its goals in the realization of the theme of this year's World Tourism Day celebration. T

The Ghana Tourism Authority aims to lead the development and management of an internationally recognized hospitality institute that will serve the sub-region of West Africa, as it also promises to develop regional theaters to leverage culture and arts. All of these, although there are more, are intended to make Ghana competitive and become Africa's chosen destination for leisure and business tourism, creating an atmosphere to attract high levels of investment. Having accomplished these, the GTA would then have made substantial strides in rural development, as many of the country's tourist sites are located in rural areas.

Columnist: Akua Karle Okyere