‘’Tourism is the biggest industry in the world’’ – Martin Parr
Tourism Ambassadors! Who are they and what is their purpose? Do they actually live up to expectation and produce results or are they just people who are given resources and social standing with no profitable returns? Let’s look together at the roles these tourism ambassadors can play in putting Ghana on the map when it comes to tourism. Unfortunately, many of us as deluded by the perception that a tourism ambassador should be someone already in the tourism industry. This is a very wrong perception and limits us as well as the ambassadors when they are appointed. A tourism ambassador is someone, usually a public figure who is elected to improve the tourism and culture of a country. They are usually musicians, footballers,actors, comedians and radio/tv personalities. In the not too distant past, John Dumelo (Actor) and Abeiku Santana (Radio Broadcaster) have served in these capacities. Currently, Ghana music duo Reggie and Bollie have been appointed to take up this responsibility. However, there are a couple of celebrated Ghanaian icons who directly and indirectly play this role wholeheartedly without the official tag as ‘’tourism ambassadors’’. Talk of former captain of the senior men national football team Stephen ‘’Tornado’’ Appiah, Maame Adwoa Awindor of hit TV program ‘’greetings from abroad’’ fame and young award winning actor Abraham Attah. These individuals have always raised high the flag of Ghana all around the globe where they have been. They sell Ghana so well that many people who may have otherwise not known Ghana fall in love with the nation and want to visit. Let us look at a few ways that our tourism icons and ambassadors can put us on the global map and sell Ghana to the rest of the world.
Know Ghana Tourism – To sell something, you have to know it and know it well. The primary role of any ambassador is to market the product or service in the best way they can using their popularity, influence and expertise. Ghana’s tourism ambassadors have a basic role of knowing a great deal about our tourism and hospitality industry so as to know exactly what to say and do when they go out there to sell Ghana as an attractive tourist destination. Visiting and experiencing the numerous tourist sites, monuments and experiencing the rich culture and heritage all across the country is only the first step. When this is done well, then they become well equipped to go on to the next stage.
Make the noise – How can one be an ambassador without making noise? Hold on! This is not the kind of noise that drives people insane or creates inconvenience for others. This is good noise. Creating buzz and painting a good image about the country everywhere is good noise. Our ambassadors have a key role in spreading the good word of Ghana’s beauty, style, culture and tradition. These ambassadors have so much following on social media which is not limited to only Ghanaians and Africans. Many have millions of international fans and followers on facebook, twitter and instagram which makes it very easy to share videos, pictures and great content about the colour and beauty of Ghana. People always hear about the adventure and the stories of many tourist sites in Ghana but when it comes from someone they trust and admire, it only makes it reassuring.
Travel wide – Being an ambassador doesn’t really mean selling the country from your home. You need to travel! Go out there, meet people and share the news. It is by making people know how much you love and believe in their own culture and tradition that makes them want to experience yours. An ambassador has a great responsibility of attending conferences, festivals and tourism related events around the globe. Here, they will meet all the people who matter, share ideas and get business opportunities to grow and develop the tourism industry.
Highlight challenges and advice policy makers – Because the ambassador travels around a lot both domestically and internationally, it is quite easy for them to identify challenges and highlight the problems we face as an industry to the policy makers and authorities. The work doesn’t end there though. It is however still their obligation to follow up and ensure that concerns raised are addressed properly. If we highlight problems and don’t ensure that they are solved, then we just go around in circles. As ambassadors, the role is quite simple and straightforward. You are basically Mr/Mrs Tourism. Apart from the Minister and the Director of the Ghana Tourism Authority, you have a responsibility to ensure that tourism is efficient and grows to the levels we all aspire to.
Bring foreign business – When we sell, we are aiming for people to buy! In the event where people don’t buy, then we may not be doing something right. As ambassadors, after all is said and done, there is only one way to measure efficiency and productivity. The ability of our tourism ambassadors to bring in businesses and make Ghana attractive to many international tourists is what we measure them by. The number of international visitors have to increase alongside the amounts that they spend. Tourism must rise to become at least the second highest foreign exchange earner if not the first. Other industries begin to feed off what tourism brings with respect to international travelers. The hospitality, finance and trade industries will boom and the whole economy of Ghana blossoms. All it takes is the effective role play of our tourism ambassadors.
Ghana has had some very instrumental tourism ambassadors and it is important that we continue to support anyone appointed to raise the name and image of Ghana on the world stage. This way, we can improve our tourism and our entire economy will benefit.
Credit : Bennet Otoo, Jumia Travel