Gains from Tourism Demonstrate Key Industry Potential

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In 2010, tourism in Ghana generated over $1.8 billion in revenues (6.2 percent of GDP) and created nearly 300,000 jobs within the country, according to the Tourism Minister Akua Sena Dansua. That said, while tourism is currently the fourth largest industry for foreign exchange earnings in Ghana, there are key areas for potential to strengthen the industry, particularly in promoting domestic tourism and leveraging existing cultural and creative resources.

While much of the tourism industry has been focused on the international market and the potential to attract foreign exchange, a key opportunity is in promoting and developing domestic tourism,  encouraging Ghanaians and those living in Ghana to travel outside of their current locales and explore and learn about the other diverse cultures in the country. Particularly with the growing incomes of Ghanaians generally (and the fact that Ghana’s got the fastest growing economy this year), one can expect that households would have more disposal income for leisure-style activities, and while some commonly known trips about —  to Mole National Park, Kumasi for an introduction to Ashanti culture, to Cape Coast and Elmina for the slave castles and Kakum National Park, to Aburi for bicycle riding — there are numerous untapped opportunities, including exploring Jamestown and Old Accra for insight into traditional Ga culture, as well as its historic architecture, spaces and the stories behind it. There are also key learning opportunities in rural tourism, which has perhaps the most potential for economic development, poverty reduction and community empowerment, particularly when communities themselves are tasked with managing projects.

Additionally, small and medium-sized businesses, when given proper supports and incentives, could greatly benefit from and contribute to the tourism industry, by providing more “local” experiences and contributing to local economic and community development; this would also move from the very internationally oriented tourism model that promotes patronage of internal franchises (why travel to Ghana to get the American or Europeanized experience?) to real, authentic experiences to experience and learn about Ghana, its people and its cultural, artistic, environmental and other resources.