Unlike International Tourism that is often susceptible to various shocks including but not limited to terror attacks, natural disasters and political instabilities, Domestic Tourism is often more resilient to such shocks. Countries that rely mainly on International Travel receipts suffer more from such uncertainties than those with large domestic tourist markets which can bolster the economy until the destination recovers from the shock.
Moreover, International Tourism is often dominated by multinational firms – with a higher chance of revenue leakages, but also fewer job opportunities for locals while Domestic Tourism promotes local economic development since the monies spent by tourists, stay within the local economy. Therefore, the importance of Domestic Tourism to an economy cannot be overemphasized and needs to be taken more seriously in Ghana.
No doubt, the tourism industry is one of the strong pillars of Ghana’s economy – contributing circa 3.0% to GDP and generating nearly 693,000 jobs in 2016. It is fourth after Gold, Cocoa and Oil in terms of foreign exchange earnings. It is also fair to say that that the country has made strides relative to inbound tourist arrivals and to the facilities that cater to their needs especially the accommodation and food and beverage sub-sectors.
However, the sector is not contributing to growth as much as it should as Ghana is operating below its potential having placed 67th in comparison to Kenya’s 46th and Senegal’s 14th positions on the global milieu in terms of the contribution to GDP growth in 2017. The country also ranked 101 out of a group of 185 countries in terms of tourism’s contribution to national output and 49th relative to its impact on employment in 2016 (see Ghana.gov.gh). Obviously more needs to done to propel growth in the sector especially the Domestic Tourismsub-sector.
Though ad hoc in nature, government has ignited numerous strategies geared at increasing tourist arrivals both domestically and internationally. For Domestic Tourism, in particular, these efforts include but not limited to the ‘Do Ghana Campaign – WongoWongo road trips’, ‘See, Wear, Eat, Feel Ghana campaign’, celebrity marketing, television and social media ads. Though commendable, such strategies wield diminutive long-term effect thus the need to begin thinking about more alluring long-term measures to drive growth in this sub-sector.
Undoubtedly, the tourism resources across the length and breadth of the country are circumscribed around ecological, cultural heritage and historical attractions as well as events.
For example, the Mole National Park, Kakum National Park, Boabeng Fiema monkey sanctuary, Shai Hills, waterfalls and annual festivals put Ghana on the world tourism map. Most of these attractions are characterized by sightseeing or ‘gazing’ with little to no active participation but also, low repeat visits. Children, who may be the reason why parents look for recreational activities, willy-nilly, engage mostly in sightseeing with parents with no opportunity of going on circular rides and roller-coasters among others.
Empirical studies have demonstrated that repeat visits to attractions by Ghanaians are averagely two times. From personal experience, it becomes almost a lacklustre and uninspiring to visit an ecological site such as a game reserve, forest reserve or waterfall for more than once. I think the simple message here is that Ghanaians want to experience something different or better still have a different and persuasive reason to travel within the country for leisure.
In advanced tourism destinations such as France, UK, USA, China and Germany diverse man-made superstructures including theme parks, amusement parks, casinos and museums among others have been introduced to complement their historical and naturals attractions. Such man-made attractions have a stronger propensity of attracting more repeat visits not only by domestic tourists (e.g. families and groups) but also, inbound tourists.
The reason is that these amusement superstructures stimulate active participation by clients. Though such investments may require huge capital outlays, especially in the effort to spread them across the country, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture could either engage the private sector to invest or enter into PPP agreements to develop these superstructures.
For me, if we cannot change the narrative as a country by not relying heavily on our ‘God-gifted’ traditional tourism resources such as the ecological, cultural heritage and historical attractions, the effort to achieve a boom in Domestic Tourism might be farfetched. Suffice it to say that the Marine Drive Tourism Project that is underway is a laudable one that hopefully, will change the narrative a bit on Domestic Tourism within Accra and other nearby cities. But, the focus on Accra alone presents spatial barriers which could limit citizens in other regions wanting to patronize these facilities.
I recommend the diversification of the attraction offerings in the country to include more man-made recreational facilities not only in Accra but possibly in all regional capitals. I strongly believe the range of activities associated with such superstructure especially theme parks when developed, will whip up the predilection to engage in Domestic Tourism and excursions in Ghana; and in so doing, not only create job opportunities but boost government revenue.
The writer is a Lecturer at the Univesrsity of Development Studies, Wa