Ghana’s Tourism Sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country. In 2016, it was the fourth highest forex earner for Ghana. The sector employed about 125,000 people directly and a further 313,000 indirectly in 2016.

Tourist arrivals continue to increase in Ghana, hitting 1.2 million in 2016. Per purposes of visits, visits of friends and relatives (VFR) tops at 24.7% whilst business visits stand at 23%.

On the tourism expenditure side, 29% of all expenditure by tourists go into accommodation whereas food and beverages take 14%.

The USA, UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands are the top five tourism sources for tourists visiting the country.

SUB-SECTORS

Eco-Tourism: Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial (mass) tourism.

It means responsible travel to natural areas conserving the environment and improving the well-being of the local people.  Its purpose may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, or to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights.

Cultural Tourism: Cultural Tourism (or culture tourism) is the subset of tourism concerned with a traveler’s engagement with a country or region’s culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religion(s), and other elements that helped shape their way of life.

Cultural tourism includes tourism in urban areas, particularly historic or large cities and their cultural facilities such as museums and theatres. It can also include tourism in rural areas showcasing the traditions of indigenous cultural communities (i.e. festivals, rituals), and their values and lifestyle, as well as niches like industrial tourism and creative tourism. It is generally agreed that cultural tourists spend substantially than standard tourists do. This form of tourism is also becoming generally more popular throughout the world, and a recent OECD report has highlighted the role that cultural tourism  play in regional development in different world regions.

Medical Tourism: Medical tourism refers to people traveling to a country other than their own to obtain medical treatment. In the past, this usually referred to those who traveled from less-developed countries to major medical centers in highly developed countries for treatment unavailable at home.

However, in recent years it may equally refer to those from developed countries who travel to developing countries for lower priced medical treatments. The motivation may be for medical services unavailable or illegal in the home country.

Educational Tourism: Educational tourism is one of the fastest growing areas of the travel tourism and one that is too often overlooked by tourism professionals and marketers is “educational tourism”.

School trips, alternative “spring break” travel experiences, study abroad experiences, skills enhancement vacations, educational cruises as well as seminar vacations are some examples of educational tourism.

Food Tourism: Culinary tourism or food tourism is the exploration of food as the purpose of tourism.[2] It is now considered a vital component of the tourism experience. Dining out is common among tourists and “food is believed to rank alongside climate, accommodation, and scenery” in importance to tourists.

SECTOR COMPOSITION

There are many sectors & players in the tourism sector in Ghana. The Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOFF) which is the private sector umbrella body for tourism organizations in Ghana has 25 organizations under its umbrella. These organizations include the Ghana Hotels’ Association; Ghana Association of Travel & Tours; Tour Operators Union; Association of Night Clubs and the Tourism Writer’s Foundation.

In the hotel’s sub-sector, the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), which is the government body mandated to regulate the industry estimates that there are about 2,800 hotels registered across the various categories in Ghana. Of this number, occupancy is highest in the 3 and 4-star category, with about 72% occupancy whereas the 5-star category has occupancy of about 68%.

Whilst GHATOF is a federation of players in the tourism industry, GTA is the government agency tasked to regulate the industry.

CURRENT TRENDS

ALLIED SERVICES/ RELATED SECTORS

Tourism has overlapping relationship with almost every sector of the economy.

i.        Agriculture: The linkage between tourism and agriculture is direct. The average tourist in Ghana spends 7 days during which food forms an important part of this stay. The produce from agriculture is used to stock hotels and restaurants where tourists eat.

Government policy is to focus on gastronomy in the tourism space, giving Ghanaian gastronomers the space to grow and ultimately expand Ghanaian gastronomy abroad.

ii.        Agro-processing/ manufacturing: Closely linked with agriculture is agro-processing and manufacturing. Finished and semi-finished processed foods are used in the tourism industry to meet the many needs of tourists.

iii.        Infrastructure (Ports & Railways): It is estimated that about 75% of all tourist arrivals into Ghana is through the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), with the rest coming in through mainly the three border towns of Aflao, Elubu and Paga. Also, tourists on cruise ships and chartered boats visit Ghana from time to time.

The KIA serves as a first port of call for tourists. It is in this line, and the increasing number of visitors through the KIA that the government is undertaking the construction of the Terminal 3 at the KIA to have boarding bridges and expanded facilities. Already, the existing facilities at Terminal 2 has been expanded. There have also be recent upgrades of the 3 existing domestic airports at Takoradi, Kumasi and Tamale. These domestic airports have increased the number of tourists that visit attractions across the country as it opened-up the country. Plans are underway to turn the Kumasi Airport into an international airport.

Ghana’s port infrastructure has also seen expansions with a dedicated berth being designed for cruise ships and floating hospitals.

iv.        Roads & Transportation: Roads and Transportation is another sector that the tourism sector has a direct relationship with roads and transportation. Often, tourists need ground transportation to get to the various tourist sites as well as a means of transportation.

Government is on a plan to improve the road networks leading to tourist sites. Also, many more private investments is being sought into providing tourist serviced busses for designated routes.

v.       Health & Education: Both health and education has direct bearing on tourism, with a lot of travelers now opting for educational or health tourism directly.