The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is negatively affecting the tourism industry due to the cancellation of conferences and events that would have brought thousands of visitors into the country, says Charles Osei-Bonsu, Executive Director of the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA).
A World Tourism Organisation (WTO) conference, “Branding for Africa and Africa’s Image”, which had been scheduled to be come off in Accra from September 9-11, was postponed, he told the B&FT in an interview.
Other important international events have also been put on hold, he said, amid fears that large cross-border gatherings could facilitate the spread of Ebola, which has killed more than 4,000 people in the most affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The postponement and cancellation of international events is having a ripple effect on tourism revenues and the hotel business, Mr. Osei-Bonsu added.
The overall impact of Ebola on the industry will be better appreciated when full-year statistics on tourism trends have been collated. For now, the GTA’s goal of attracting a record one million tourists into the country this year and generating more than US$2billion in earnings looks threatened as Ebola rages on.
Speaking during a media interaction last week ahead of the upcoming 2014 National Tourism Awards in Accra, the GTA boss said the Authority’s current focus is to improve the standards and quality of service in tourism facilities.
To expand its oversight and decentralise its activities, the GTA plans to have five of its seven pilot district offices operational in November. The pilot offices will be zoned to cover wide areas.
Touching on the tourism levy that was introduced in October 2012, Mr. Osei-Bonsu said many accommodation establishments and caterers have been registered and certified to collect the levy and make payments to designated banks.
Some GH¢7million has been generated from the levy as at the middle of October this year, while over 2,600 facilities – representing about 96 percent of licenced tourism facilities – have so far been registered to collect the levy.
An average of around GH¢350,000 is mobilised every month, the Fund Manager, Abraham Tetteh, said, adding that he is hopeful collections will double soon when the challenges associated with collection are addressed.
The National Tourism Awards 2014, which was previously slated for November 28, has been moved to December 11 at the Banquet Hall of the State House due to the Arts and Culture festival being hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Ben Anane-Nsiah, Special Events Manager, said.
The awards are to honour businesses and individuals in the tourism industry, reward excellent performance to encourage competition, and create a platform for interaction as a family so to enhance the positive image of the country through the tourism sector, Mr. Anane-Nsiah said.
The awards criteria are based on factors such as good facilities, good customer service, and companies with a good record of tax compliance.
Telefonika Ghana Limited is the headline sponsor, while companies such as Turkish Airlines, Binatone, Universal Merchant Bank, Sunseekers, Sunlodge Hotel, Papaye are providing support to make the award ceremony a success.