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General News
Visa, hotel costs sinking tourism 5/5/2013

Ghana is slowly ceding tourism market to neighbours due to high Visa fees and hotel rates, João Inglês, General Manager for Cape Verde Islands and Ghana at TAP Portugal, the national airline of Portugal, has told B&FT.

Poor infrastructure, low investment and lack of coordination among various stakeholders have also conspired to throttle development of the sector, seen as an important source of foreign exchange revenues.

Ghana, with it numerous UNESCO world heritage sights and pristine coast line, can rake in more revenue than it currently earns from tourism.

In 2011, there were over 50.17 million international tourist arrivals to Africa, an increase of 0.9 percent over 2010, according to the World Tourism Organisation. The top-ten African destinations included Morocco, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. Ghana did not make the list.

“It’s a pity that Ghana is not so much involved on the tourism side. This is one side Ghana needs to explore. Tour operators in Lisbon ask me, ‘What is the trend of tourism in Ghana?’ and I say they have their own opportunities but tourism is not developed,” Mr. Inglês said in an interview.

“In Togo, they protect their tourism industry and invest in the sector. Ghana has the potential -- with very nice beaches -- but it is not developing and using it.”

He said visa fees charged by Ghana’s missions abroad keep rising, hindering the inflow of tourists into the country. Currently, visa fees to Ghana from major European countries range between US$150-US$200.

“Fees within this range are too expensive. Tourists are people who travel just for leisure or business and go back to their countries,” he said.

Hotel rates in Ghana also tend to be more expensive than in Europe. Premium hotels in Accra charge between US$300-400 per night for a standard room, while hotels with similar facilities in neighbouring Lomé charge between US$50 to US$172 for a standard room.

The local rates are also comparatively higher than popular four- and five-star hotels in London, Lisbon, Germany and other countries in Europe.

To address the issue, Mr. Inglês, advocates an open communication between Ghana and countries it has bilateral relationship with. “The Ghanaian Government should communicate with the European Embassies about addressing visa issues.

There should be reciprocal communication about people travelling to and from Ghana. This communication should start in Ghana.”

The Chinese enclave of Macau realised US$27.8 billion in tourism receipts in 2011.

The country, by its total of 0.9million arrivals and receipts of US$1.7billion recorded in 2011, achieved a growth of 16 percent. This growth is disproportionate to the tourist attractions in the country.

Government should make a conscious effort to develop the sector and realise more revenue, Mr. Inglês, said.

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