The Bank of Ghana (BoG) is urging increased efforts in the development of tourism through the promotion of attractive sites to locals and the international community to help create awareness, increase arrivals and rake in more foreign exchange for the country.
The bank is optimistic the increased foreign exchange through high tourist arrivals will help absorb the foreign exchange pressures that it has been struggling to contain since the beginning of the year.
A significant reduction in the foreign exchange pressures through an inflow of sufficient forex to match demand would help ease the current pressures on the cedi, reduce the rate at which prices of goods are rising and also lower the cost at which government and businesses are servicing their foreign currency denominated loans and other payments.
Although the Central Bank is banking its hopes on tourism as one of the sectors that could help relieve the economy and the current forex related challenges, its Governor, Dr Henry Kofi Wampah, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in an interview that BoG would not rush to propose suggestions on how to fully exploit the nation's tourism potentials.
The bank, he said, saw the tourism sector "as one with a strong potential for foreign exchange earnings" and would, therefore, table its concerns and suggestions on the sector to a wider group of experts capable of translating them into programmes that would result in more revenues for the country.
That group of experts, the Governor said, included participants of the recently concluded dialogue on boosting the country's foreign exchange. The programme was initiated by the Ministries of Trade and Industry (MoTI) and Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP) with support from the Central Bank.
Tourism Authority reacts
The Governor had, in his welcome address, praised tourism as one of the fastest growing sectors of the global economy of which most developing countries had recently shifted attention to as they search for increased foreign exchange beyond those earned from the export of their traditional commodities.
"There is no doubt about Ghana's potential as a tourism destination in West Africa and we must harness these advantages to increase our earnings," Dr Wampah said at the opening ceremony of the dialogue.
The comments by the Governor are the first of their kind from a person of his stature and as a result of the forex squeeze that the bank and the economy in general has suffered over the last six months.
The acting Deputy Executive Director in-charge of Finance and Administration at the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), Mr Samson Donkor, said the Governor's observations "are facts and things that we have been saying over the years."
"However, tourism, as he said, still remains a potential in this country and as a potential, we can't earn maximum returns from it unless we master the courage to invest in developing it," he observed.
The authority has been advocating increased government allocation to the sector to help upgrade tourism sites, promote them to the international community and build the capacity of adjourning businesses to be able to fully exploit the country's tourism potential.
Although that advocacy has received some little attention through the introduction of the Tourism Levy and the incentives, Mr Donkor said more needed to be done if the country was to turn that potential into a money making venture.
International tourist arrivals to the country has been picking up over the years, rising from a handful of about 286,000 tourists in 1995 to 1.1 million visitors in 2012 before peaking at about 1.3 million visitors last year.
The same applies to the earnings. Revenues from the sector in general rose from some US$237,200 in 1995 to US$1.87 billion in 2010 and then to US$2.5 billion in 2013, data from the Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts (MoTCCA) showed.
The 2013 earnings meant that tourism had overtaken foreign remittances to become the third highest foreign exchange earner after gold and cocoa.
However impressive that growth is, the acting Executive Director of the Tourism Authority said earnings from the sector could be higher should the sector receive the needed financial resources.
As a result, Mr Donkor suggested that the BoG, which was the holder of the nation's purse to dedicate some funds to tourism development.
"They can ask for grants to finance specific tourism projects. They can also allocate some resources to the sector so that if the returns come by way of increased tourist arrivals and the money, the bank can rely on it to stabilise the currency," he added.
Source: Graphic Online
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