The Tour Operators Union of Ghana, TOUGHA – is impressing on government to work to bridge the digital space to help boost the country’s tourism.
In a statement signed by TOUGHA’s President Kwesi Eyison, on the occasion of this year’s World Tourism Day celebrations, the union is calling on government to ensure digital inclusiveness of all citizens so that the country does not lose out on the digital transformation boom.
For the tour operators, “travel is fundamentally about linking people and places. Leveraging technology such as near-universal high-speed internet connectivity, search and geolocation technologies, mobile payments and social platforms are shaping today’s travel and tourism.”
“TOUGHA, therefore, calls on the government to provide the needed incentives to the private sector and where necessary crack the whip to ensure that all parts of the country are connected and digitally smart. Each positive photo posted on social media from any tourist site, however, remote counts as a marketing tool. Each payment made via mobile money to a food vendor is building the industry. We can’t afford to lose out,” the statement added.
Digitally, Ghana remains one of the most connected countries in sub-Saharan Africa with an internet penetration rate of 75.54% as at July this year, according to the National Communications Authority (NCA).
But according to TOUGHA, “while these numbers may be commendable, the sad reality is that these numbers are concentrated in urban environment where telecom infrastructure tends to be better, leaving out rural dwellers.
Ironically, the reality is that most of our tourism offerings are located in rural areas but they are those most disconnected from even basic internet services which are now a key driver for the industry today.
As we aspire for a tourism sector that is inclusive and sustainable, technology will play a key role, especially with a thriving sharing economy of the Ubers, Airbnbs and Tripadvisors of our world today.
While commending the current administration for continuing some projects and initiatives begun by the previous government, such as the visa on arrival and the Terminal 3 (T3) at the Kotoka International Airport, TOUGHA believes the application of technology could further simplify the processes involved in travelling.
“With the Terminal 3 receiving great reviews in tourism circles around the world, it is also important to modernise some of the operations at the airport.
“We have options to either scrap the existing departure and arrival forms or introduce a self-scan system as pertains in most technologically-savvy airports across the world rather than get stuck with the filling of those forms,”
International travel is increasingly driven by cross-border collaboration between governments and the private sector.
While applauding the government for maintaining the Visa on Arrival policy started on July 1, 2016, TOUGHA believes that it is very important for the government to ride on the applause Ghana is receiving at international tourism gatherings across the continent to begin issuing e-visas.
The ease of e-visas has a lot to contribute to the growth of tourism in Ghana and we can’t look further than Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia to see the impact on arrivals in-bound numbers.
World Tourism Day is celebrated worldwide yearly on August 27. The main events for this year’s are being held in Budapest, Hungary under the theme, “Tourism and the Digital Transformation.”