TTME FEB 2018-PG 7

Capturing the West African MICE market

Known for its rich history and culture, Ghana is on a mission to position itself as West Africa’s favourite MICE destination. Hon. Catherine Abelema Afeku, Member of Parliament, and Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Government of Ghana, shares with TravTalk the efforts taken to increase inbound tourism.

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Located in the West African region, Ghana holds a very strong position not only due to its imperial background but also for a destination renowned for adventure tourism. It is a very unique destination for many reasons. To begin with, the 540 km undisturbed beach area, the longest canopy walk known as ‘Kakum canopy walk’ where one can indulge in adventure activities like hiking, mountain climbing or even paragliding, also witness the longest man-made lake in the world.
Over the past few years Ghana has been steadily strengthening its presence in the West African region in terms of hosting MICE events as currently, it can host nearly 1000 participants in the properties around the country. In order to further consolidate their efforts to position themselves as a leading MICE destination, they have launched an iconic project named as ‘Marine Drive’ which will be completed by 2021 to accommodate over 3000 participants in one large exhibition and convention area.
Last years’ World Tourism Forum Africa Summit held in Accra, Ghana, attracted over 600 participants from 54 countries. Connectivity to Ghana is quite an ease with the daily flight by Emirates from Dubai to Accra and a total of 37 international flights arriving at the destination.
According to Afeku, Ghana is on a rapid search for interested investors in all the projects aimed at developing and strengthening the MICE tourism sector. “We are open for business to those who are willing to invest as we are in a position to offer great benefits. We had 1.5 million inbound tourists from various countries and 3.5 million in domestic tourists. Our focus is to attract 2 million tourists by the end of this year,” Afeku says.
The Marine Drive project is to ensure that there are enough hotel rooms to cater to the requirements of the expected visitors. Currently there are five-star brands from international hotel chains like Kempinski and Movenpick and we know that Marriott is also working on some new projects to establish their presence in Ghana. “We have seen many investors with great interest, especially from the Middle East region, as we have a good combination of food, halal, Lebanese, or any others that could soon attract visitors. We are also looking at boutique hotels that can cater to the high-end tourists we attract,” she adds.
Ghana is considered as one of the most friendly nations in Africa. The country is renowned for its warm, hospitable people with natural vegetation, year-round sunshine, just two months of rain with rest of the months on summer weather. “The most important thing is our culture. We have heritage, fortresses, rich culture of people, then in terms of activities we have safari, adventure tourism, very strong Muslim and Christian community with religious co-existence since 4th BC for which we take pride in. For tourists from the Middle East these are key attractions,” says Afeku.
Ghana’s rich culture and history dates back to when they were colonised. This has left them as an educated nation with lots of possibilities for development.
“Ghana is a very safe, secure, civil and literate country with a very advanced society and the presence of a very strong expat community. UK has been our number one source market for many years with other Middle East countries following but now we are investing our efforts in ensuring more traffic from all over the world to show the amount of rich tapestry, architecture, historical and religious sites in the country. We have one of the oldest mosques in Africa along with the oldest Quran (over 600 years) which is a Middle East tourist attractor. We would like to invite all trade investors and tourists to enjoy the rich heritage, nature and culture of our country and relish in the good food, cordial relations and Ghanian hospitality,” she concludes.

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