Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Tuesday, expressing concern about the high airfares in Africa, asked African countries to open up their air spaces by reducing the taxes on inter-country flights to boost the tourism industry.
He said Ghana was collaborating with other West African countries to facilitate movement within the sub-region as part of the continental initiative to facilitate visa-free movement in Africa.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Vice President said, was seriously working on the issuance of electronic-visas as one of the mechanisms to attract more tourists into Ghana.
Vice President Bawumia was addressing the World Tourism Summit, in Accra.
The Summit was initiated to bring experts, enthusiasts, key players and stakeholders in the tourism industry globally, to promote investment and fill a gap in the international tourism industry.
Ghana has become the first African country to host the Summit, which has enjoyed steady growth since its inception in 2014.
The Vice President said Ghana had witnessed a rise in its tourists’ arrivals from 286,600 in 1995 to an estimated 1.2 million, in 2016.
He said tourism alone contributed about three per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and provided about 450,000 jobs in 2016, and other indirect benefits.
The Vice President said the Summit was of great importance to the nation as it was aligned with its goal of positioning itself as a major tourism hub on the Continent.
He said the Government was committed to improving the tourism potentials and would, therefore, work very hard towards ensuring that the nation achieved its goals within the next couple of years.
Vice President Bawumia said: “As a country, our strengths lie in our warm, welcoming and friendly environment, in terms of our people, our natural environment, security, as well as a stable political climate.”
He said Ghana was focused on building new and upgrading existing tourism infrastructure to support the tourism industry to flourish.
The Vice President said the Government’s major tourism project was the expansion and revamping of the major international airport, the Kotoka International Airport, to make it the gateway to West Africa and a Regional Aviation Hub.
He said the current expansion work at the Airport was evident and added that, the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture and its implementing agencies, such as the Ghana Tourism Authority and Ghana Tourist Development Company, were spearheading the Marine Drive Investment Project to boost the tourism sector.
The Project, Dr Bawumia said, entailed the development of the entire 241 acres stretch of beachfront land into a tourism enclave to meet the needs of business and leisure tourists, while making Ghana the preferred tourism destination in Africa.
When the project is completed, he said, it would host more than 70 world class hotels, amusement and theme parks, restaurants, shopping malls, conference halls, an amphitheater, cultural village and concourses.
Vice President Bawumia said tourism was a major priority of the Government‘s developmental goals.
To this end, he said, the Government had revamped the Ministry of Tourism and appointed a high level cabinet member, Madam Catherine Afeku, as the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, with a herculean task to ensuring that, Ghana moved from an off-beaten -track locale to a major African Tourism player.
He said the country’s tourism sector had seen steady growth over the years, and it was, therefore, happy to have been selected among a host of other equally qualified nations to host this year’s event.
Dr Bawumia noted that the choice of topics such as Destination Management, Heritage Tourism, Tourism Investments, Online Tourism and Adventure Tourism in this year’s event, reflected the country’s goal and many other African nations’ ambitions to position themselves as key players in the multibillion dollar industry.
The expected growth path of the tourism sector, according to the National Tourism Development Plan, is to more than double tourism revenues to $8.38 billion by the year 2027 from its current $2.2 million.
To achieve this ambitious target, the Government has set itself on a path of providing a conducive environment for tourism investments, easing business pressure on tourism business operators, and the re-introduction of appropriate incentives to boost growth.