Africa > West Africa > Ghana > Ghana Tourism Profile

Ghana: Ghana Tourism Profile

2015/03/22

Kakum National Park

Ghana maintains solid growth in travel and tourism

  • Ghana’s travel and tourism industry witnessed considerable growth towards the end of the review period. The industry is currently the country’s fourth largest export earner after gold, cocoa and foreign remittances, reflecting the fact that Ghana’s booming economy is among Africa’s strongest. The positive performance of the Ghanaian economy can also be attributed to the fact that the country is seen as politically stable and a relatively safe travel and tourism destination. This has led to growth in tourist arrivals as well as increases in the supply of hotel rooms and the number of inbound and outbound flights.

Inbound arrivals experience a substantial increase during 2013

Over the last seven years, inbound tourist flows to Ghana have been growing in both volume and value terms. The country hosted quite a high number of visitors in 2013, recording a 12% increase in inbound arrivals during the year. The revenue generated from these incoming tourists also witnessed positive growth. The consistent growth being recorded in inbound tourism is largely due to government efforts to promote Ghana as a travel and tourism destination through the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), with the country promoted as a favourable tourist destination at major international travel and tourism trade fairs. In addition, Ghana’s stability and security coupled with its renowned tourist attractions and regular festivals celebrating the country’s rich culture also supported growth in visitor arrivals during the year.

Booming hotels category remains a major boon for Ghana’s economy

Ghana’s hospitality sector is becoming a prime development target for major multinational hotel chains looking to expand in Africa. The country’s hotel supply, particularly in the capital Accra, has witnessed strong growth in terms of the number outlets over the last few years thanks to political stability, a booming travel and tourism industry and the attractive investment climate in Ghana. Some leading international hotel brands which have already established a foothold in Ghana include Best Western, Golden Tulip, Mövenpick, Novotel and Holiday Inn. Given Ghana’s growing economy, a high numbers of new hotels are expected to open in the country during the forecast period. Some of the leading hotel brands with properties currently under development in Ghana include Kempinski, Marriott, Express by Holiday Inn and Radisson Blu.

Ghana Tourism Authority ventures into the world of the internet

Due to the consistent shifting demand trends in global travel and tourism, the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) has recently been embracing various new online marketing methods in order to sustain growth in its travel and tourism industry. Apart from having an established website, the GTA has also collaborated with Google for the launch an online project dubbed Tourism-Online, which designs free websites for all travel and tourism operators in the country. In addition, the GTA is also very active online through its own website as well as maintaining a presence on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+. This all forms part of a bid to promote Ghana’s travel and tourism industry. This shift online is likely to further expand the business potential of Ghana’s existing travel and tourism stakeholders and increase the scope of their audience. Additional benefits include free training programmes on how to manage new travel and tourism websites.

Travel and tourism has strong growth potential and is set to boost economic growth

Travel and tourism has the potential to continue stimulating growth in the Ghanaian economy over the forecast period on the back of the nation’s diverse tourist attractions, growing infrastructure, political stability and strategic geographic location. The country is an important emerging economy within Africa and any increase in inbound arrivals would further bolster growth in its travel and tourism industry. However, the government still needs to pay considerable attention to its flourishing travel and tourism industry, which remains vulnerable due to the nation’s reliance on exports of gold and cocoa as well as its booming oil and gas industry. As such, economy diversification will be necessary for Ghana to ensure future growth and stability in its travel and tourism industry.

Travel and tourism blossoming despite late kick-off

Travel and tourism is one of the most essential and fastest growing areas of the Ghanaian economy. However, it took the country almost forty years following its independence in 1957 to establish a Ministry of Tourism (MoT), whereas other post-colonial nations such as Kenya set up an MoT just one day after independence. Despite making a late start in travel and tourism for a number of reasons, one of these being political unrest, travel and tourism has been making a significant impact on the socio-economic development of Ghana in recent years. With the return of political stability, Ghana is today the third most important tourism destination in West Africa in terms of tourist arrivals after Senegal and Nigeria. Travel and tourism is also the fourth highest foreign exchange earner for the country, raking about US$1 billion annually. The Government is committed to supporting the development of travel and tourism and has adopted a number of measures not only to create a conducive environment for sustainable investment, but also to increase the country’s foreign exchange earnings through travel and tourism.
 

An emerging market for medical tourism

Healthcare is fast becoming a major tourism product in Ghana and the country is taking advantage of this boom. According to recent research, healthcare is a major reason for people travelling to the country, along with visits to historical and cultural sites and to attend business meetings and conferences. Each year, hundreds of foreign visitors come to Ghana seeking various healthcare services attracted by the promise of cut-price treatment administered by qualified doctors, most of whom have been trained in Western countries. Unlike medical tourists in Western countries, visitors to Ghana access services which are often not available in their own countries. Some of the health services offered include physiotherapy, fertility treatment, orthodox medicine and herbal medicine as well as surgical operations. If well promoted, Ghana would benefit enormously from healthcare tourism and could become a haven for complicated surgical procedures such as heart and spinal operations.
 

Entrance of multinational hotel chains boosting growth in hotels

In the past, travel and tourism in Ghana struggled with a limited supply of travel accommodation facilities. However, this problem is being addressed with hotels which meet international standards rapidly increasing. Hotels is receiving a boost as new international luxury hotels are being built or refurbished, most of them concentrated in the capital city of Accra. At present, travel accommodation represents the largest portion of travel and tourism revenue in Ghana, accounting for 34% of tourist expenditure. Hotel development projects currently underway in the country include Hilton, Marriot, Sheraton, Mövenpick Hotel and Resort and the Ambassador Hotel. Upon completion, these new hotels will be able to cater to the increasing number of visitors travelling to country. Growth in hotel revenue will also be essential in increasing Ghana’s foreign exchange earnings and thereby enhancing development.
 

A new authority

Reforms in Ghana’s tourism sector have given new powers and responsibilities to the newly-formed Ghana Tourism Authority, which will now play a direct role in channelling investment and launching new initiatives, with a particular focus on regional development and sustainable, community-based tourism.
Tourism has become an increasingly important part of Ghana’s economy. In 2010, the sector accounted for an estimated 6.2% of GDP, bringing in some $1.88bn, up from $836m in 2005. Visitor numbers rose to 930,000, up from 430,000 in 2005.
The Ghana Tourism Authority Law (Act of Parliament 817), approved in May by President John Atta Mills, replaces the old Ghana Tourism Board (GTB) with the GTA. This new body will play a more wide-ranging and proactive role than the tourism board – a non-profit organisation – which was more of a regulatory body.
 
Frank Kofigah, deputy executive director of operations for the GTA, has told the local press that the authority will have powers to develop and manage income-generating tourism programmes and products to compete on the open market.
The GTA retains many regulatory functions. It is able to develop and manage tourist sites and is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of tourist products. It is hoped that its powers will help drive up standards in the sector. At present, service quality is variable, and a significant unlicensed segment operates.
 
One of the new body’s first moves will be to establish and oversee a tourism development fund (TDF), financed by a 1% levy on tourism products. The TDF will help fund the tourism authority, supplemented by seed capital from the government and donors, as well as the organisation’s own profit-generating activities. The fund is expected to support promotion and marketing, education and training, and associated industries such as handicrafts.
The GTA will also start to decentralise its operations to encourage greater decision making at the local level. Regional branches of the authority are already taking a hands-on role in the sector. In October, the local press reported that the GTA’s wing in the eastern Volta region had launched a comprehensive programme of tourism development and promotion. The regional tourism authority is working with a range of operators in the sector, including hotels, guesthouses, caterers and tourist site guards, running training courses to help them achieve international service standards.
 
A shortage of skilled human resources has also long been a hindrance. In 2009, the GTB estimated that only 15% of tourism professionals had formal training. The expansion of the education sector is helping to address this issue. Many major universities now offer tourism and hospitality programmes, and the number of vocational institutes developing courses tailored to the sector’s needs is on the rise.
July 2011 saw the opening of the Ghana College of Tourism and Hospitality Management, which focuses on short-term practical courses and has formed partnerships with a number of hotels, including the international Golden Tulip brand.
 
The decentralising approach of the GTA should also place renewed impetus on the expansion of Ghana’s rural, community-based tourism sector, which has been nurtured in recent years through the Ghana Rural Ecotourism and Travel Office (GREET), established in 2002 with the support of international donors, including the US Agency for International Development. GREET aims to support self-sufficient, community-run and eco-friendly tourism projects that support economic and social development among communities, as well as providing funds to reinvest in them.
Ghana’s tourism potential is substantial. The country benefits from immense natural beauty, a long coastline, a large number of historical sites and a reputation as a safe and stable destination. While infrastructure and underinvestment in rural regions has limited the growth of tourism offerings in less-visited regions of the country, the creation of the GTA should put new momentum behind the sector, enhancing both standards and competition, while ensuring more inclusive and targeted developments