PRESIDENT John Mahama has asked African professionals in the branding industry to change the negative narrative about Africa, using the continent’s vast tourist attractions.
“Africa has great potential and has a lot going for it…If we package Africa properly, the international media will respond,” the President stressed.
He was opening a regional conference on “Enhancing brand Africa; fostering tourism development,” in Accra yesterday.
The three-day conference, under the auspices of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, has brought together Tourism Ministers from Africa and other stakeholders to set a common action plan to advance Africa’s image and brand as a tourism destination.
Africa’s tourism, and thus the capacity of the tourism sector to contribute to the development of the continent, is often hindered by the negative perception of and the generalisation of crisis situations in specific locations to the whole of a country or the region.
The effects of Ebola on the tourism sector in Africa last year, are a case in point. International tourist arrivals to Africa, which had been growing at an average of five per cent a year in the previous two years, grew by only two per cent under the impact of the perceptions about the health risks.
As one of Africa’s most promising sectors in terms of development, tourism rakes in about $36 billion or seven per cent of all exports in the continent. Last year for instance, Africa received 56 million international tourists up from 26 million in the year 2000.
President Mahama, who has been a staunch advocate of the need to erase the negative perceptions the rest of the world has about Africa, stressed that Africa’s huge tourism potential could be tapped to highlight the continent’s numerous positives.
He pointed out that Africa was not one country but comprised 54 nations, noting that six countries on the continent were among the 10 fastest growing economies in the world.
In Ghana, he said tourism, which contributed 4.7 per cent of GDP, was the fourth largest foreign exchange earner after cocoa, gold and oil.
“Ghana is a good business destination,” President Mahama said, and spoke about ongoing efforts to improve tourist arrivals in Ghana, which he said, saw a reduction of 30 per cent, following the Ebola scare.
He said the government was making conscious efforts to invest substantially in the country’s tourism assets.
The President intimated that following the recent inauguration of the 147-kilometre Sawla-Fufulso road in the Northern Region, tourist visits to the Mole National Park, had increased tremendously.
“Tourism is a big and a good business,” he remarked but pointed out that for the nation to make the most from the industry, it would have to up its game concerning issues about sanitation and the hospitality industry.
“We must work to change the negative narrative about Africa built over the years,” President Mahama stressed and expressed the hope that the conference would come up with workable strategies on how it could change the world’s perception about Africa.
Mrs. Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare, Minister of Tourism, observed that while the world know Ghana for its hospitality, the country was yet to take full advantage of its ability to market what makes Ghana even a stronger, more competitive brand in the world.
Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organisation, noted that tourism had become a fundamental instrument of economic growth and inclusive development across all regions of the world.
Over the recent decade, he said Africa had come of age as one of the world’s fastest growing tourism regions, rising from 26 million international tourists in 2000 to 56 million in 2014.
By Samuel Nuamah