Indubitably, the travel and tourism industry is one of the main cornerstones of Ghana’s economy – contributing about 3.0% to GDP and accountable for nearly 693,000 jobs in 2016 (World Travel and Tourism Council [WTTC], 2017). Indeed, Ghana’s tourism potentials abound, however, yet to be fully harnessed for growth in the industry. To fully leverage Ghana’s untapped tourism potential, there is the need to design the appropriate product planning framework and market strategy(ies) that can identify and exploit tourism resources in the country. But then, these efforts must be founded on a wide range of quality data. Without reliable and valid data, our tourism industry is most likely to fail or grow in a stunted manner – since we cannot assess progress and do benchmarking against other destinations (if that is of moment to us).
Certainly, data play a consequential role not only in the formulation of national policies and development planning but also in setting goals, budgeting, resource allocation and monitoring of progress by governments. In fact, data are the lifeblood of policy decisions in most developed economies. They are the evidence upon which policies are built. Hence, data must be current as outdated data has little relevance in helping to identify market dynamics to swiftly plan for the industry. Yet, there is a dearth of data or dated data (where obtainable) published by the industry’s governing institutions in Ghana. Such data lack substance for policy decisions and research. As an academic in this field, I expect more from the governing establishments of tourism in Ghana than there is currently.
The data situation in Ghana’s tourism industry is one of a major concern. There is a huge gap in the collection and availability of data and/or statistics on the industry (in comparison to some destinations such as the Gambia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, UK, USA, France, Italy, China, etc), which the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts and the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) must bridge. Most of the countries mentioned, heretofore, with the aid ubiquitous technology, gather data in real time at their tourism facilities and make them available to the public especially academics who need such massive survey data for research.
In fact, my search on the National Tourism websites of some of the countries mentioned above confirms the availability of massive current data (up to 2018) which can facilitate forecasting and other market research for effective policy decisions. It is utterly inappropriate to drive Ghana’s travel and tourism industry on insufficient and dated statistics and/or data. This cannot can help us track growth (if at all we are interested in doing so) or understand market dynamics in the industry such as consumption patterns, demand, and products and services among others.
I was a bit stunned to find dated (a four-year-old) statistics on the GTA website on Ghana’s tourist arrivals, generating markets, expenditure, and purpose of visit. At least, the creation of such a database is praiseworthy, but it leaves much to be desired for holding obsolete information which bears diminutive relevance to research and policy formulation. I would like to kindly remind the managers and decision-makers at the Ministry of Tourism and the GTA that the National Tourism Development Plan (2013-2027), as well as the Tourism Act (2011) enjoin them to conduct regular market research. Therefore, it is about time we saw frequently published statistics or data (at least quarterly if not monthly) on the industry’s operations as in the case of some of the destinations outlined earlier.
What happens to the data gathered by the Ghana Immigration Service through the exit and landing cards at the airports, seaports and other points of entry on daily basis? This should be giving us monthly data on arrivals, originating countries, purpose of visit and other tourist profiles. Rather, it takes the WTTC (an external source) to report statistics on Ghana’s tourism annually though this does not go beyond the industry’s contribution to GDP, growth rate, employment creation and visitor exports statistics. Where and how does the WTTC garner its data on our tourism industry?
I expect a comprehensive range of facts/data about the industry (than what is currently available) from the GTA and the Ministry, which are mandated to do so, not an external organisation. I will commend the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) for providing us with some data on domestic and outbound tourism for 2015, but there is certainly more to be done especially by the governing institutions of Ghana’s tourism industry.
As Ghana pursues the ‘Beyond Aid’ agenda, my expectation and wish is that the main establishments responsible for superintending our bourgeoning travel and tourism industry will step up their game in terms of gathering continuous sufficient and reliable data usable for research and policy decisions – instead of depending on external sources.
I also wish to use this chance to note that the only constant in the hospitality and tourism industry is ‘change’. Thus, research is highly indispensable for destinations that wish to wield a competitive edge over others. In my opinion, there is quite a wide gap between academe and the administrators of the industry in Ghana that needs to be closed to engender a quicker and sustained growth in the industry. In sync with what some colleagues shared earlier, I encourage the GTA and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts to collaborate more with the relevant academic institutions in Ghana to obtain research-based insights that will move the industry forward with alacrity than it is doing now.