The tourism industry in Ghana has been soaring for the past decade with the addition of globally-branded hotels, new high-end resorts, and an increasing variety of eating establishments. There is a wider variety and quality of choice in the country than ever before. Tourism numbers are growing, international arrivals reached 1.2 million in 2016, and domestic tourism is buoyed by a fast rising middle class. But challenges exist. Investment incentives that once boosted the industry have been pulled back and tourism investment growth has slowed.
The focus on developing business hotels in the cities has left key tourism destinations in Ghana with limited accommodation options. More investment outside the cities is needed. Ghana’s tourism visa rules and costs are an impediment to the growth in international tourism arrivals. But there is much promise for the future.
One such example is Zaina Lodge (www.zainalodge.com), located in Mole National Park, the largest park in Ghana’s wildlife estate. Since its establishment, Mole has been without accommodation options of international quality. That has now changed. Zaina Lodge is the first safari lodge established in West African, and is one of the most unique properties in all of Ghana. The architecture, service level, and ambience of the property are on par with the best lodges in the world.
Zaina Lodge employs 74% of staff from Northern Ghana, and has proven that high-end tourism in Northern Ghana is possible with the results achieved thus far. Since its inception in October 2015, 80% of Zaina’s guests have been residents of Ghana, 60% are Ghanaian, and 20% of total guests are repeat visitors, demonstrating there is domestic demand for quality accommodation in key rural attractions.
There have been many other positive developments in the industry. While there have long been established properties such as the Labadi Beach Hotel, Golden Tulip, African Regent and Fiesta Royal to name a few, international brands such as Movenpick, Kempinski, Ibis , and Holiday Inn have entered the market, along with others soon to join: Hilton, Marriott, and Radisson Blu. High end resorts such as the Royal Senchi (Easter Region) or Lou Moon (Western Region) have changed the nature of accommodation options outside the cities. Villa Monticello in Accra has made a name for itself with impeccable standards, and as the only majority female owned and managed hotel in Ghana. There are now a full range of culinary options in the country, from traditional Ghanaian foods, served at every price range, to fresh Sushi from Japan, gourmet burgers, and cuisines ranging from Korean, to French, to Argentinean. Choice abounds.
Yet it is risky to invest in hospitality relative to other real estate investments that offer faster and more secure returns Accessing credit to augment equity investment in the sector is a challenge, and expensive. Government should better collaborate with investors in the sector to develop packages of incentives to boost investment and boost growth in the sector. A few examples include duty exemptions for the importation of capital equipment, tax incentives for quality accommodation options near targeted rural tourism destinations, and promotional and marketing support to investors taking the risk to grow the Ghanaian tourism industry, both domestically and internationally.
If we want tourism in Ghana to continue to grow, we need to facilitate the process. We need to simplify and reduce the cost of the visa process, or we risk losing visitors to countries that have eased their visa restrictions, such as Senegal and others. We need to facilitate investment in the industry with the appropriate incentives and a streamlining of red-tape. And most importantly, we need to encourage our fellow Ghanaians to leave their comfort zones, and see the rest of their country.
The original text was published in the 2017 Ghana Club 100 Publication by the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre
Co-founder and General Manager, Zaina Lodge