Small and medium enterprises in the tourism value chain worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are to be supported with part of a US$9m grant to save them from imminent collapse.
Small travel and tour companies, art and craft shops, and restaurants sited in and around tourist hotspots have all found life difficult since the COVID-19-induced imposition of international travel restrictions by central government led to the drying up of that segment of the market.
The usual sight of tourists browsing art and craft shops dotted along the Oxford Street in Osu, a suburb of Accra, to purchase memorabilia from Ghana for friends and family back in Europe, the Americas and Asia seemed like a distant memory on a recent visit.
The shopping lanes of the Arts Centre along the Accra High Street, which is considered the hub of all kinds of handmade figurines and is frequented by tourists, is now empty, with hundreds of vendors sleeping through most of the day. Vendors who rely on sales to fend for themselves and their families now find it difficult to make ends meet.
These businesses, according to the Tourism Minister, Barbara Oteng Gyasi, are part of those that can access part of the US$9m grant.
Mrs. Oteng-Gyasi, speaking at the launch of the scheme in Accra, said: “I am happy to say that the beneficiaries to be supported under this grant scheme comprise mainly Ghanaian indigenous businesses in the tourism value chain, including micro businesses that employ between 1 to 5 persons, small businesses that employ between 6 to 30 people, and medium businesses that employ 31 to 100 people. In addition to the above, the project’s intervention encourages support to women-owned and women-led businesses in the tourism sector.”
To facilitate the disbursement of the grant and ensure accountability, the ministry has engaged a grants management firm whose role, among others, will be to reconcile the financial records of the grantee, collect and verify end-of-project information on performance targets and data, and execute disbursement.
COVID-19 a reality check for Ghana’s tourism sector
Research has shown that Ghana’s tourism plans, unlike other countries, is heavily reliant on cultural diversity, inbound international tourists and European heritage.
Some researchers have argued that any discourse on the growth and development of the tourism industry without underscoring these attributes would be incomplete and myopic.
In Ghana, appreciating and advertising the spatial distributions of tourist sites is one of the core challenges and opportunities for policy makers and development experts as they seek to promote sustainable tourism sector development in the country.
A study conducted in 2018 found that tourism sites are distributed spatially in Ghana, and the sites can be classified into natural sites—like parks, game reserves, rivers, and mountains—and man-made or socio-cultural resources, such as castles, museums, cultural heritages, artefacts and historical experiences. These resources, the study found, are poorly marketed, globally and locally.
The Heritage Conservation Trust (GHCT), managers of the Kakum National Park, which is heavily reliant on foreign tourists, estimate that the facility has lost GH¢400,000 in potential earnings since the outbreak of COVID-19, forcing a temporary closure.
The impact of the current pandemic must lead to aggressive promotion of domestic tourism, experts say.