Ghana’s recreation and tourism sector has experienced rapid growth in the past years and recognized by government as one of the economic pillars for developing beyond aid and creating jobs in the country. The National Tourism Development Plan (2013 – 2027) led by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts (MoTCCA) highlights that the tourism and hospitality sector is a major driver of the Ghanaian economy. As such government is committed to increasing infrastructure investments of Ghana’s tourism sector to boost both the number of tourist arrivals and the net spend per tourist in Ghana.
Ghana’s tourism sector is playing an increasingly important role in the country’s development, contributing to both economic growth and job creation. The results of the World Economic Forum’s “Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019” indicate that Ghana has significant opportunity to build competitiveness through its history, culture and abundance of natural sites, raising the country’s international profile as a tourism destination. Tourism provides a significant source of foreign exchange in Ghana, contributing to the government’s tax revenue, economic growth and job opportunities. The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture estimated that the sector accounted for 4.9% of GDP in 2018, making it the fourth-largest contributor after cocoa, gold and oil. Tourism supported 602,425 direct and indirect jobs that year, up 10% compared to 2017, when the sector employed 550,000 people.
The sector saw an increase in international visitors in the year 2020 due to the “Beyond the Return” initiative by government. This is a follow-up to the successful “Year of Return” Ghana 2019’ campaign which commemorated the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first recorded enslaved Africans in Jamestown Virginia in 1619. The landmark campaign also celebrated the resilience of the African over the past 400 years and welcomed all people of African origin to return to Africa especially Ghana.
The campaign resulted in a growth of 18% in international arrivals from the Americas, Great Britain, the Caribbean and other key target countries whilst total arrivals increased by 45% compared to the previous year. Estimated average spends increased from US$1,862 in 2017 to US$2,589 in 2019 (MoTCCA, 2020).
The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a severe effect on inbound tourism. International arrivals declined from 1,130,307 in 2019 to 355,108 in 2020, a drop of around 68%, which is 6% less than the UNWTO’s forecast of 74%. Tourism receipts, on the other hand, fell from ($M) 3,312.9 to ($M) 387.1 in 2020, representing an 88% drop. Before the pandemic (2019), there were 256,457 arrivals, 196,039 arrivals during the epidemic (2020), and 98,950 arrivals in the recovery year (2021).
The tourism activities are mostly associated with recreational activities and Ghana offers different types of recreational activities including, hiking which features spectacular experiences of forest hikes such as the hike to Wli Falls, biking which features trails through the Shai Hills Game Reserve, Water sports including jet skiing and surfing as is available at the Busua Beach Resort and Lou-Moon (Axim) and paragliding on the Kwahu plateau, which is mostly at its peak during the Easter (usually April) and celebrated annually as a Paragliding Festival flying hundreds of visitors during a 3-4day event at Kwahu Atibie.
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