The COVID-19 virus has undoubtedly caused irreparable effects worldwide. And in Ghana, the fear of catching the virus has influenced business owners and families to make drastic decisions intended to keep them safe and prevent them from catching the virus.
This virus has also affected the availability of employment opportunities and livelihoods of many in ways that hitherto, were unimaginable.
One critical sector which has been greatly affected with the spread of the coronavirus is the hospitality industry.
Three months after the partial lockdown has been lifted, business owners and workers across the hospitality industry are still recording very low patronage. This is because, almost all leisure and social activities have been brought to a standstill.
Over the past five years, domestic travel and tourism has contributed an average of 5.5 per cent to Ghana’s GDP. And we are at the time of the year when the indigenes of the coastal areas celebrate most of their festivals.
But the expected business advantages to be made from the merry making, social gatherings and parties among others, cannot be sustained in this era of the corona virus and perhaps affect the national income as well.
As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said the projected GDP growth for 2020 which was 6.8 per cent at the beginning of the year, has now plummeted to 1.8 percent.
In March, when the President called for a partial lockdown, pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants were unable to offer services to the public, as such establishments usually house large crowds of people and are indeed designed to host for social gatherings.
And as a result of the lockdown, some beverage distributors have recorded an all-time low of barely 200 crates sold per day, as opposed to a normal day’s sale of about 500 crates per day or the 1,500 crates often recorded during festive seasons in previous years.
Madam Bernice Sam, a liquor store entrepreneur in Cape Coast, she said she has had to let go of her employees, as she has been unable to pay them with the amount of money her business has been making.
She said, “These days, no one comes here anymore. Once in a while, I would have a customer call me and order a few drinks and they would come by to pick up their order”.
The tourism industry has also experienced a significant decline in patronage. Bars that have been strategically positioned next to prime tourist attractions such as the Cape Coast Castle, the Kumasi Arts and Cultural Centre and the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum are recording unprecedented low levels of customers per day.
Some business owners in Tema have decided to run a shift system where workers come in one week and stay home the next. To business owners, this reduces the amount of money they have to pay workers, helping them reduce their overhead costs.
Adwoa Adomaa, the owner of Virgin City Pub at Mile 7, Accra, expressed worry that some fixed costs such as rent have not been reduced or waived, even though they have had their doors closed to the public for several months.
For some, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pubs and bars were more than a place to purchase alcoholic beverages, it was also a place for socialisation and a much-needed avenue of social interaction.
One frequent customer of The Pantry – Cape Coast, expressed his frustrations saying, “Before this pandemic, we used to come here and discuss work issues and find solutions for each other; but now, some of us can’t even go to work. Those of us who go to work too, we have to go straight home, no social life”.