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HomeNewsGhana calls again for the wanderlusts

Ghana calls again for the wanderlusts

A decade ago, transportation companies in Nigeria were all jostling for the Lagos-Cotonou-Lome-Accra route because of the seeming exodus of travelers on that route everyday, most of whose journeys were terminated in Accra, the Ghanaian capital.

At the peak of that seeming scramble for the lucrative West African coastline route, many transport companies sought for additional capital and equity to increase their fleet, especially ABC Transport Company, the leader of the pack.

At a point, ABC Transport branded its luxury buses West Coast and moved more Nigerians (than any other competitor) thro and fro that route on daily basis.

The question on the lips of many then, especially those who have not visited Ghana, the Gold Coast, was “why common Ghana”?

Yes, Ghana was a destination to reckon with then and is still with even more offerings today. From corporate organisations holding their AGMs, students running away from Nigerian poorly rated universities amid industrial strikes, to couples looking for a cheap destination for honeymoon and wedding anniversary getaway and to the real tourists who no longer can afford the high cost vacation in Europe and America, Ghana presented a very good alternative.

The closeness, competitive holiday packages, cultural affinity and easy access all combined to make Ghana the destination of choice for many Nigerians then.

At one of the editions of Akwaaba African Travel Market, an annual travel and tourism fair in Lagos, most of the hotel managers and even Ghana tourism officials proudly reel out the huge numbers of Nigerian visitors, who they said made up almost half of their overall visitations.

Today, the reverse seems to be the case as visitation numbers from Nigeria have declined hugely. Some blame the poor visits to the harsh economic realities in Nigeria in the last five years, others blame it on the huge strength of Ghanaian Cedi over the weakening Naira, which makes visit to Ghana very expensive now, while some say immigration challenges and too many borders to settle officials have also impacted the numbers.

But the impact of Covid-19 pandemic also added to the decline, especially with the many challenges to overcome.

In the light of the new realities; the respite from the pandemic, the removal of travel restrictions and opening of the borders, there is a new move to reverse the present trend and woo Nigerian visitors back to Ghana.

Some concerned Ghanaian private sector tourism stakeholders are putting heads together to recapture the West Coast tourism corridor amid growing the numbers starting from Nigeria.

Read also: Continent collaborates to drive tourism growth, recovery at Africa Travel Indaba 2022

Walking their talk, Herbert Acquaye, a renowned Ghanaian hotelier and tourism investor, led a team of committed operators, alongside Now Available Africa, a marketing communication and advertising firm in Ghana, on working visit and campaign in the Nigerian cities of Lagos and Abuja to engage with stakeholders in the country with a view to resting Ghana’s tourism agenda.

While in the country, they had two consultative sessions with some selected tourism operators in Lagos and Abuja, where Acquaye, Emmanuel Amankwah and Emeka Bamidele, both of Now Available Africa paid keen attention to the reasons the numbers from Nigerian have been on decline and also solutions proffered by their Nigerian counterparts.

At the Lagos leg of the visit and consultative session tagged; Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) engagement, Acquaye explained the reasons for the move to regain Nigerian visitors.

“There has been a haphazard approach from the Ghanaian end to the Nigeria market and not just only Nigeria but Africa market. Now, there is need to change the focus with more attention paid to the Nigerian market, West Coast region and Africa in general because of the affinity that Ghana shares with the people and other factors that make accessing the continental market easier with the prospect of high numbers generated by the market as in the past years”, Acquaye said.

He disclosed further that the objective of the project in Nigerian is to create a media campaign that will help drive the developmental project; and develop campaign, while implementing a programme for stakeholders’ engagement in Nigeria, targeting the MICE and leisure markets.

For Emmanuel Amankwah of Now Available Africa, the new move is bringing his company to work with the Ghana Ministry of Tourism and others to reset its tourism agenda especially in reference to Nigeria.

He regretted the lapses, lamenting further that Ghana, as a destination, has done poorly with Nigeria market, hence the need to reverse the decline trend.

Amankwah insisted that the visit to Nigeria is meant to create a platform that will be a win-win for Nigeria, Ghana and the West African region.

‘‘If we have a well coordinated programme between us we should be able to bring in a lot of benefits, ’’ he said.

To avoid mistakes of the past; of all talks and no action, Amankwah disclosed that the outcomes of the two engagements would be made into a working document, which would be shared to the public and private sectors, but that the private sector would be driving the process, as tourism thrives best when it is driven by the private sector.

Explaining why Nigeria and Ghana need to exchange visits and business, Bamidele, also of Now Available Africa, screened a short video that highlighted the traditional ties and common heritages shared by both countries.

For him, ‘‘Our similarities far outweigh our differences. We have so many things in common.’’

The team also urged the Nigerian stakeholders at the meeting to help Ghana to improve her performance in target areas not only in Ghana but in Nigeria as the discussions must be well focused to achieve something that will benefit the two countries.

However, the Nigerian stakeholders at the meetings commended the move by the Acquaye-led team, giving them the assurance on cooperation and actions required to achieve a win-win goal for both countries.

But they also pointed out the challenges that need to be tackled for the goals to be achieved, especially initiating the right policies and having political will by leaders of both countries to effect changes where necessary.

But Hassan Abdullahi Zakari, president, Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria (ATPN) and also chief service officer OF Metro DMC, noted that the issues requires government to government engagement as well as government understanding the importance of tourism in order to give it preference and initiating the right policies to support it.

Brian Efa, general manager, Victoria Crown Plaza Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, noted that the very high cost of visit to Ghana, which is less than an hour flight from Lagos, is a major setback for potential visitors. According to him, the governments across the two countries should work on reducing aviation charges and taxes to enable airlines to charge cheaper fares.

“Flight is the major consideration by intending visitors, if it is cheaper or affordable many will jump into the plane without minding if the hotels are expensive”, Efa said.

Femi Fadina, promoter of Awori cultural heritage and board member, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, noted that Ghana should also improve on its packages like Dubai where on every visit; there are many new things to see.

Other points needed to address, according to the stakeholders, include; aligning aviation policy to tourism, attracting investments in the right areas, market focus, product and service line, taking advantage of airlines’ off season period by tourism operators to drive tourism figures, free access and ease of border controls and restrictions. Others are; full implementation of ECOWAS protocol, institutional hosting of events and engagements, and working with the right marketing communication channels for distribution and marketing of tours and tourism products as well as the media.

Excited by the rescue move of Ghana tourism private sector, Rotimi Aiyetan, South West Zonal Coordinator, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), enthused, ‘‘This engagement should continue because it will benefit the two countries.’’

At the end, Acquaye found the storming sessions very educative, revealing and insightful as his team listened to the critical issues raised.

He confessed that it was a learning process for his team, while promising that his team would engage those in Accra as their target needs to be refocused.

‘‘I am stirred by some of the issues that have come out from our discussions. This is an eye opener, we shall continue this in Abuja and Accra and hopefully, we shall share the outcome with us. The industry has to be made to work and if that has to be we have to share this with the public and private sectors’’, he concluded.

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