Brief History On Ghana’s Tourism

Ghana moved up from the seventeenth position in 1985 to eighth in 1998 among the top 20

leading tour- ism revenue-earners in Africa (WTO, 1999). Table 1 shows that international
tourist arrivals in Ghana has increased steadily from nearly 114,000 in 1988 to about
348,000 in 1998, at an annual average growth rate of about 20 percent. With respect to
tourist’s expenditure, international tourism receipts grew at an average annual rate of 41.3
percent from about $55.3 million in 1988 to about $285 million in 1998. This makes
tourism the third largest earner of foreign exchange currently, , ranking behind mineral and
cocoa exports.
Table 1.
Ghana : International Tourist Arrivals and Receipts
Year Arrivals Receipts (US $M)
1988 113,784 55.34
1989 125,162 72.09
1990 145,780 80.83
1991 172,464 117.70
1992 213,316 166.90
1993 256,680 205.62
1994 271,310 227.60
1995 286,000 233.20
1996 304,860 248.80
1997 325,438 265.59
1998 347,952 284.96
Annual Average Growth Rate 20.5% 41.3%
Source : Ghana Tourist Board, 1999. The growth in tourism can also be seen in the expansion of activities in the hotel sector.
Table 2 depicts the growth in the number of hotel properties, rooms and beds between 1989
and 1998. The number of hotels approved and licensed by the Ghana Tourist Board
increased from only 273 in 1989 to 730 in 11998, while the number of rooms more than
doubled from 4,851 in 1989 to 10,879 in 1998.
Table 2.
Growth In Lodging Sector 1989-1998
Year Hotels
Number Rooms Beds
1989 273 4851 7449
1990 350 5682 8576
1991 419 6339 9189
1992 509 7666 10902
1993 587 8578 12112
1994 624 8883 12373
1995 580 8518 11938
1996 703 10263 13791
1997 751 10921 14164
1998 730 10879 14289
% Growth 1989-1998 167.4 124.3 9108
Average Annual %
18.6 13.8 10.2
Source : Ghana Tourist Board, 1999.
As in the case of most African countries, the rationale for tourism development is primarily
economic and at two levels: macro or national or micro or local. At the macro level, tourism
is expected to promote economic growth by generating foreign ex change as well as
increase various forms of government revenue. At the micro level, tourism is expected to
facilitate job creation, income and revenue distribution, and a balanced regional
development, which ultimately should improve the quality of life of residents. Recent
adverse developments in Ghana’s economy are serving as reminders of the need to diversify
the economy in order to reduce dependence on the tradition exports of unprocessed mineral,
agricultural and forest products. The price of cocoa, the leading agricultural export which
was $1,1711 per tonne during the 1997/98 season, had declined to $1,040 by September
1999. Similarly, gold, the country’s principal export has been declining steadily since
December 1998, while the price of imported crude oil which was about $10.25 a barrel in
December 1998 had almost tripled to about $30 a barrel by mid March 2000. These adverse
developments have placed greater urgency on developing tourism in order to alleviate
foreign exchange shortfalls and to augment domestic revenue. There are cultural and
environmental reasons for tourism development in Ghana as well, but space would not
allow any detailed discussion. Suffice it to mention that the country has diverse cultural
resources that can be rehabilitated and preserved through tourism. Among these are the
three World Heritage Forts and Castles in Cape Coast and Elmina in the Central Region
which are undergoing restoration for the development of ethnic tourism. Additionally, the
expanding population (doubling every 20 years) bas placed increased pressures on the environment and has necessitated conservation of the ecosystem through tour- ism activities
such as the establishment of national preserves. The 15-year Tourism Development Plan has
identified several national parks in each of the country’s ten regions. These will be
developed to form the basis for the country’s eco-tourism product component of the tourism
History of Tourism Development
The first major step in the formal development of tourism in Ghana was an evaluation of the
country’s tourism resources in 1970, 13 years after independence in 1957 (Obuarn
Committee, 1972). The objective was to catalogue and classify the potential tourism
resources for a five- year development plan covering the period 1972-1976. As a result of a
this study, the government issued a White Paper on Tourism, which identified investment
areas for foreign participation, including various concessions and incentives for investors.
Between 1972 and 1978, a number of important studies were carried out on various aspects
of Ghana’s tourist industry. Due to financial limitations as well as local technical
constraints, most of these studies were funded and conducted by foreign agencies and
personnel. Some of these studies included :
. An assessment by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, 1973) of
tourism planning and development, and a review of human , resource requirements
for the , tourism sector (Singh, 1978).
. Identification by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
requirements for a comprehensive tourism development strategy (Stewart, 1973).
. A project by the United States International Executive Service Corps on the effective
resource utilisation for tourism development (Egan, 1975).
To supplement these studies, a number of domestically sponsored projects were carried out,
focusing primarily on tourism impact assessment. These dealt with foreign exchange
earnings ( Ghosh and Kotey, 1973), tourism multiplier effects (Ayittey, 1975) and sociocultural impacts (Addoatal.,1975).
Based on the studies identified above as well as others, there was a general consensus that
Ghana had the potential to develop a viable tourism industry , however , there was the need
to formulate a more comprehensive national tourism development plan to guide long-term
sustainable development. It is important to identify a number of important factors and
considerations that led to this decision, particularly because comprehensive national and
regional tourism development planning is critical to successful tourism development in
individual African countries. First, tourism was a new and technically unfamiliar industry
for local planners and developers. Second, local technical expertise in tourism was almost
non-existent. Third, domestic capital to support the pre-requisite general and tourismspecific infrastructure was marginal. Finally, the scope for domestic and sub-regional
(African) international tourism was limited by very low disposable incomes in Ghana and
the West African sub-region). As a result, it was argued that Ghana’s tourism industry would
most likely be dependent on foreign markets, mostly Western Europe and North America. This, it was further argued, would make the country susceptible to adverse economic and
social impacts, which needed to be carefully assessed.

The First 15-Year Tourism Development Plan (1975-1990)
These considerations resulted in the 15-Year Tourism Development Plan that was intended
to guide tourism planning for the period 1975 to 1990 with financial and technical
assistance from the Danish Government (Hoff and Overgaard Planning Consult- ants, 1974).
Based on a projected average annual growth rate of 12.5 percent, international tourist
arrivals were to increase from only 64,000 in 1975 to 357,000 a year by the end of the plan
in 1990. Average length of stay was to increase from 4 to 9.4 days, while the number of
hotels with minimum international standards was to expand from only 900 in
1975tomorethan13,000 in 1990. With respect to economic benefits, 36,000 new direct and
indirect jobs were to be created, while projected annual foreign exchange earnings were
estimated at $58 million. Unfortunately, this plan was never implemented due to the nature
of the political economy at that time, and the subsequent decade of political instability
(Teye, 1988), and severe economic deterioration that proved to be incompatible with
attracting both investment capital and the projected number of international visitors.
The Future of Tourism in Ghana:
The Current Plan
While tourism currently appears to be expanding its contribution to the economy of Ghana


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