A GNA feature by Samuel Akumatey
The tourism industry in the Volta Region will become a key component of the business case for the Ho Airport – yet to be made operational although long readied for service.
The 25-million-dollar facility is being turned into a landing site for military and other non-commercial operations.
It took the request of the Paramount Chief of the traditional state that controlled the Ho Municipality, Togbe Afede XIV for Africa World Airlines (AWA), a domestic air carrier company he chaired, to access the facility, and express intent to extend its flights to the city.
This probably followed reports around the time that no airline was willing to ply the Ho air route.
The boldest announcement of a timeline for the commercial operationalisation of the airport was made at a forum with hospitality industry players, put together by the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA).
The choice of hospitality and tourism sector players as consultants on the airport’s use was as a result of the immovable role they possessed in the aviation industry’s development.
The bet is on corporate persons with no time to spare and who wouldn’t like to risk spine on hours-long road rages to the city.
The bet however is heaviest on the thousands of leisure and thrill seekers who would readily traverse the skies to savor the world in its variety.
The unique classes of tourists are known to keep sites and support facilities in operation beyond holiday seasons.
As the first commercial flight approaches the airport, the region must be found ready, which involves positioning the hospitality industry to serve visitors with seamless experiences.
Readiness for flights?
Madam Ama Faake Gadzekpo Head of Business Development Services of the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) told stakeholders at a recent meeting that seamless and synchronised travel was one of key strategies for developing flight routes, and that the success of the aviation sector was prompting the Company to operationalise all airports in the country.
Believing the Easter launch of commercial flights to Ho was apt and a turning-point.
”With tourism as a major selling point for the Region, it was crucial for investors to come together to provide more affordable travel packages,” adding, “Without it, it will be impossible to sustain.
“There is a lot that can be harnessed to grow air travel,” she said.
Madam Gadzekpo said such flexible travel packages must attract the various classes of commuters, and also consider cross-border traders using Ho as a possible transit point.
The Executive also pointed out the countless eye-catching festivals and traditional celebrations, as well as first-class conferences, crusades and other public events could serve as the pull-factor.
She announced that a purposeful media campaign would be activated to buckle the launch of the airport.
Activation of flights
Ade Dayo, Head of Marketing at AWA, who announced that the airline would activate two flights per week at a one-way fare of GHC 100 for a start confirms the economic viability of the aviation industry in the Region.
Indeed, with a couple of Universities homed here; Volta is catching the eye of venture capitalists seeking to meet the needs of its growing population.
There is some visible aggressiveness in the development of physical infrastructure in the major cities as expected, and also in some tourist enclaves.
Tourism relatively is shooting up, just that some sites and attractions are not as pampered as their lodging counterparts.
Available data from the GTA showed a helpless fall in visitor numbers from 55,000 in 2018 to about 3,000 prior to the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020.
Mr Alexander Nketia, Regional Director of GTA said at a webinar organised by the Association of Ghana Industries, that the Region lacked strong presence on tourism destination maps, and that the absence of a rigorous marketing and promotional strategy was the anticlimax.
The GTA, he said, has a technical working committee that is among other things re-imagining tourism’s unique strengths in the Region, which include natural attractions, indigenous culture and pursuing collaborations with other sectors that could help promote tourism development.
Accommodation ranks top of the list in the world of travel, and although it is refreshing to realise that more than 100 new hotels was added in the Volta Region since 2018, and further additions and resort facilities needed to be expanded beyond imagination.
Investments are multiplying in gated estate communities around the airport enclave and construction is set to spike with its opening.
It’s not too late for development investors to consider the Region’s hospitality brand, and help provide the needed space to suit.
Mr Ben Anane Nsiah of the Product Development and Investment Department of the GTA said another major challenge to the hospitality industry in the Region was development of natural attractions, although they abound.
To conquer the hurdles, industry players must consider themselves as a combined entity working to make the Region the destination of choice.
Government nevertheless, is supporting the tourism development in the region with some district Assemblies and the private sector collaborating to be industry players.
The Akatsi North District Assembly has advanced the nation’s second major crocodile pond, but since that freak accident, stakeholders are working feverishly to correct the initial mishap to relaunch.
A World Bank Tourism Support project is also developing Waterfalls and other attractions in the mountainous regions of the Ho West District.
In the area lies Amedzofe, the highest settlement in Ghana, making the highlands an ideal and major stopover for visitors.
Amedzofe by its peculiar weather that supports the cultivation of Irish potato and tea also could become an avenue for convalescencing patients. The private sector can pry on this.
A few kilometres after the mountains lay the world-renowned Tafi Monkey Sanctuary, where thousands of Mona monkeys reside for centuries, have claimed and preserved a virgin forest.
Government has assumed some face-lifting projects at the monkey sanctuary, and also the Wli Waterfalls in the Hohoe Municipality-top attractions in the Region.
There are also indigenous coffee production industries in Ho Municipality, the Kente industry at Agotime-Kpetoe and also the iron bearing caves, which holds massive prospects for smelting technology dating back over several hundreds of years in the Akpafu Mountains, located in the Guan District of the Oti Region.
Tour experts describe the Region’s chain of mountains as ideal for the development of cable transportation networks, canopy walks, and paragliding activities for leisure, tour and business.
The Region also passes as a spot for extreme outdoor sporting activities such as hiking and camping, all which could be properly packaged to entice the wanderlust.
The waterfronts covering the southern coastline of the region offers endless relaxation, and the Volta delta has also invited leisure investments of sorts.
The government must therefore consider supporting the many craft villages and projects in the Region and revive them, with potters of Kpando Fesi, Adidome requiring some support to gel.
Individuals on constant transit, could afford to keep commercial airlines using the airport and the success of the airport and its airlines will surely depend on the city’s appeal.
Ho must add to its clean city status, other lures that would set it apart and grant it prominence on travel directories worldwide, and Mr. Nketia placed it best, when he charged industry partakers to “become creative around domestic tourism.”