Multiple awards winning Ghanaian broadcast journalist, Mr. Gilbert Abeiku Aggrey, popularly known as Abeiku Santana says the tourism industry has the potential of offering job opportunities to thousands of people if Ghana sets its priorities right.
The broadcaster, who was appointed ‘Tourism Ambassador’ by former Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts Minister, Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare under the John Mahama administration told News Ghana exclusively little has been done regarding the industry that can offer so much by way of returns to the country.
He enumerated some of the opportunities the industry could provide as including the transport industry, tour guiding, arts and culture, food and beverages, aviation industry, accountancy, secretarial as well as hospitality services.
The ace broadcaster expressed worry about the level of youth unemployment in the country while a virgin sector like tourism still remained untapped and urged the government to look at the sector again if it wants to create job opportunities for people.
“A lot of youth are there looking for jobs while tourism is there; tour guiding alone is a job, go to Kenya, go to South Africa, graduates are doing tour guiding taking tourists out and they take a minimum of 50 US dollars a day.
They are making money so if government wants to create jobs they should look at tourism because the value chain of tourism is huge. Tourism is a sector; it’s not an industry. Under it has industries; transport, food, hospitality, creative arts. Tourism is the biggest sector.
I cannot advise government on what to do but I just want to bring the attention to government on a virgin market that has a huge potential. Currently tourism is giving Ghana the number 4 for our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Government must go and learn the model from other jurisdictions because tourism creates an endless opportunities at the value chain,” he said.
Mr. Aggrey, who prefers to be referred to as an ‘Apostle of Tourism’ observed most people in the country, including policy makers do not understand the industry well hence paying little or no attention to it.
Tourism he explained entails an economic activity that brings benefit to the host community and the tourist; who is the person, who wants to engage in the activity at the destination, enjoys an experience.
“So I want to enjoy an experience but I need to spend money to enjoy the experience so it’s a win-win situation for the one who wants to enjoy the experience and the one who has the experience at sight for people to come and enjoy,” he said.
Touching on what measures needs to be put in place to derive maximum benefits from tourism, the broadcaster called for awareness creation as well as the provision of infrastructure for the sector.
“The tourism education and awareness is not much. Education entails giving the entire citizenry to know the essence and value of tourism. If the people of Cape Coast; those who live around the castle or metropolitan authority know the essence of tourism, they will protect the Cape Coast Castle and will not defecate around. If the people of Accra, Jamestown know the value of eco-tourism, and the beach and the sea and what it does, they will not dislodge any human excreta into the sea as we see. If the people of Aburi or Kintampo know the value of eco-tourism, they will not be cutting the trees that people want to come and enjoy that green scenery.
So, when I say education, we need to educate and sensitize the people, we need a whole three hundred and sixty degree conscientization for people to value what tourism is. By so doing, they will preserve they will conserve; they will protect the attractions that they have. Now, if they are able to do that then the state can market or package each and advertise these attractions so that people go there and experience it and spend money, then people can invest and the ripple effect is huge.
The next thing is the infrastructure; we need to lay down the infrastructure; in developed tourist destinations, they have airstrips closer to the tourist sites so if we appreciate tourism, we should have airstrips where lighter aircrafts and choppers can fly people to the destination sites,” the ‘Tourism Apostle’ suggested.
“Look, you have to see the value in tourism, and if you know the value in tourism and you invest there, it will bring you benefits. It does not require huge amount of money to do that, others have done it… a small country like the Gambia, go and see the tourist arrivals there, they have conserved their beaches. We are not saying construct a super infrastructure, let’s start from the basics, he said.
It must be emphasized that tourism contributed GH¢4,457 million to Ghana’s GDP in 2015 and was expected to rise by 2.7 per cent by the end of 2016. A total of GH¢7,449 million is expected by 2026.
The Gambia, Kenya, South Africa, Dubai among others has made so much from tourism to improve their respective economies.