The team of Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) headed by a former banker and journalist, Akwesi Agyeman, as acting chief executive officer, since coming on board has never hidden its intention to transform the country’s tourism industry by turning the pages and drawing up a new tourism template on which it has been propagating the tourism gospel across the country and the world.
Recently, Agyeman led a 27-man delegation to Lagos, Nigeria, for the Akwaaba African Travel Market 2017, where the country made a huge impression with their presence and presentations.
The bottom line of the various programmes and strategies that he has put in place is to increase the arrival figures as he targets 1.5 million international tourists arrivals for 2018.
‘Currently, we are hovering around one million arrivals into Ghana. That is not enough, we were hoping that we should have done 1.2 million as of December and we are moving gradually towards that. So, our target for next year is 1.5 million.
‘‘That is a huge figure and we can do it by doing what?’’ He then outlines some of the things that GTA needs to do: ‘‘Working with the private sector in bringing events into Ghana, bringing serious in out of the box activities. For example, the back to Africa campaign that we are running. We are going to do PANAFEST every year because presently it is done every other year.
‘‘But if you do PANAFEST every year it will bring in the African Diaspora and more people, it is on their calendar and they know that every year they have to pay a pilgrimage home and not this year I go and next year no. They lose track.
‘‘In terms of investment, we are working on a marine dry project, it is a beach front property, about 248 hectares of land that we are turning into a tourism enclave. We are currently clearing the land and if we are able to attract the necessary investment then we would have done our job.’’
Besides, Agyeman said he wants to create a new brand for the country’s tourism as he wants the country to be rated among the league of serious and notable tourist destinations: ‘‘Under our watch Ghana tourism will be taken more seriously than we have ever been taken in terms of competition, competing with the big boys. Two, we want to attract various tour operators, the big players – The Thomas Cooks and the Thompsons of this world. The ones who do big bookings. Ghana is not on their radar and we want to put Ghana on that radar.
‘‘We have been engaging them and they told us certain things to do and some of them are regulatory and we are working on them. When it comes to tourism arrivals, we want to be able to meet the target that we have set for next year December 2018, 1.5 million.’’
Achieving this is a tall order, as he tells you that ‘‘it is not an easy target that we have set for ourselves but we are being very aggressive and that is why we came to Akwaaba. For five years or more we have never been here, Nigeria is our third largest market in terms of arrivals. We are engaging with Nigeria and in November we are coming to Lagos to have a Ghana Film Theatre Festival with Freedom Park.
‘‘We want to engage, so for us, one of the key yardsticks is the level of engagement with West Africa, the level of engagement with the big tourism operators and the level of engagement with our stakeholders back home.
‘‘Working on tourism investment promotion act that will give incentives to the investors, the ministry is driving that and other laws.’’
On product development and marketing, he reveals that they have adopted segmentation based on the peculiarities of the market. ‘‘One thing that we have is that we have customised products. For Black Americans we are selling heritage, come back to your root and we can’t sell that to Britain.
We are very deliberate about our product sale.
‘‘When it comes to Europeans we look at the various attractions that we have and we are working with the Bird Watching Society of the United Kingdom.”
On top of that are the various hotels and accommodation facilities that we have, transportation locally, and the airlines.
While for the Nigeria market, he says, ‘‘we sell to Nigerians getaway destinations – beach and fun.’’
He concluded by saying that ‘‘we are very deliberate in segmenting the marker but our biggest draw overall is adventure and heritage tourism.’’