The Minister designate for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Mohammed Ibrahim Awal, has outlined plans to increase revenue from the sector to $6 billion within the next three years. Currently, data from the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) indicate that the sector contributed $1 billion to the economy last year, with global projections indicating that the figure could increase to $1.2 billion by the close of the year.
The Minister designate, who made an ambitious $5-billion projection of inflow within his first two years in office when given the nod, insisted that it was very possible, considering the fact that the country raked in $3.3 billion in 2019 due to the Year of Return initiative.
Dr Awal was, therefore, confident that initiatives such as the Year of Return and Beyond the Return, a further improvement of tourist sites and Ghana’s arts and culture would help achieve that target. He said his plan was to make the tourism sector the number one foreign exchange earner for the country in the next four years. Ghana’s tourism industry is currently the fourth foreign exchange earner, with gold, oil and cocoa occupying the number one to three positions, respectively.
“Tourism everywhere contributes significantly to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In Ghana, it is the number four foreign exchange earner, but we are determined to make it the number one,” he stated.
Measures to achieve targets
Dr Awal said the targets would be achieved by boosting both domestic and international tourism in the country. “We are going to boost both domestic and foreign tourism. Ghana has the best in terms of tourist sites; Ghanaian people are warm, have very rich arts and culture and good heritage sites, and we think that when we put our heads together, we can do a lot there, especially internal tourism,” the minister designate said. He said internal tourism was not much patronised and called on Parliament to champion that cause.
“We want to institute corporate tourism, school tourism, religious tourism, among others,” he noted. To do that, Dr Awal said, the country would have to improve its arts and culture offerings, since that was the foundation for a strong tourism sector for any country. “Our national festivals on arts and culture will have to come back. You cannot have a good tourism sector without a good arts and culture background,” he stated.
Dr Awal also revealed plans by the ministry, under his supervision, to build a $20-million world-class music and film studio, with the support of the private sector. That, he said, would help position the country as a film production hub in West Africa.
“This is one element that can bring increased tourism into the country. We currently don’t have any serious studio in this country. In Nigeria, the film industry, two years ago, generated $590 million. In Hollywood, the industry generated over $4.1 billion. “Ghana can do it if we have a studio that produces movies,” he stated.
The minister designate also outlined his plans to promote Ghanaian festivals and make them more attractive to the international community.
“Marketing and promotion are very important in promoting Ghanaian festivals. We want to have a comprehensive calendar and programme, worked out with the chiefs and traditional authorities, to market Ghanaian festivals in and outside Ghana and also seek to get sponsorship for these festivals,” Dr Awal noted.
$50-million industry support
The minister designate for Tourism also pointed out that the sector had been the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said statistics available to the ministry indicated that the Ghanaian tourism industry had lost GH¢6 billion since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The former Minister of Business Development said although the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) had provided some support for the industry, it was still not enough. He said the ministry was, therefore, working on a $50-million fund to support the industry.
“What we intend doing is carry out a proper impact assessment, which the GTA is already doing, to look at what we can do. We intend to build the capacities of the players in the sector, give them business ideas and provide funding for them,” he stated. Dr Awal stressed that anytime a pandemic was over, there was a surge in tourism, saying: “We, therefore, want to use the downtime.”
Marine drive project
The former Business Development Minister also said he would ensure massive participation of the private sector in the Marine Drive Tourism project.
“The Marine Drive Project is very important and a game changer project in Ghana. When I am given the nod, I will look at the details; I am a business development person and I will ensure that the project is accelerated to create jobs for Ghanaians.
“We expect to invest between $8 billion and $10 billion to ensure the project gets underway and I will ensure that the private sector is encouraged to participate,” he said.