Ghana is said to have recorded 170,696 international arrivals in the first quarter of this year, showing a percentage growth of 72.5 over the first quarter 2021 arrivals of 98,950.
This is a positive sign of recovery from the COVID-19 disruptions to normalcy.
Since the country’s tourism sector became a very significant source of foreign exchange earnings, tourist arrivals have continued to increase steadily with a few occasional dips.
For instance, the 1991 figure of 172,000 grew to 429,000 in 2005. This significant increase prompted a target of 1,000,000 by 2007, which was set in the then Tourism Strategy of the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations.
Even though that target was not achieved as the country made only 587,000 in 2007, the arrivals kept growing such that it recorded 931,000 in 2010, fell to 821 in 2011, rose to 903,000 in 2012, 994,000 in 2013, dropped to 825,000 in 2014 and jumped to 897,000 in 2015.
Subsequent records show 956,372 arrivals in 2018, followed by
1.13 million in 2019 and a huge drop to 355,000 in 2020.
Clearly, COVID-19 might have caused this and its implications for revenue loss for the country.
Comparing just 2019 and 2020 in terms of foreign exchange earnings for the country, the records state $3.7 billion in 2019 compared with total earnings of $8.63b from cocoa, capital and invisible business transactions and $1.9b in 2020 as against total earnings of $13.13b.
It is clear that much the same way as tourist arrivals fell in 2020, related revenue too fell drastically.
Even though the 170,696 international arrivals in the first quarter of this year is nothing to be happy about, its percentage growth of 72.5 over the first quarter 2021 arrivals of 98,950 portrays a rebound of the tourism sector.
This is clear when comparing the 2021 arrivals of 623,523, representing 75.59 per cent over the 2020 arrivals of 355,108.
In 2019, travel and tourism made 5.5 per cent contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which was said to be unchanged from the previous year’s.
The importance of tourism to the country in terms of foreign exchange earnings and direct and indirect job opportunities is so enormous that the country must do all it can to sustain steady growth in the sector.
Therefore, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture must not toy with its own targeted 2 million tourist arrivals with an estimated revenue of $5 billion by the end of the year.
The Destination Ghana Project recently launched in London to attract one million international tourists from Europe to Ghana must not fail either.