Tourism ministry’s ambitious expectations...
Less than 8,000 visitors have so far arrived...
Hotel owners feel deceived as their rooms remain empty...
Figures released by the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) have confirmed the view of critics who described the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the Ghana 2008 and the Ministry of Tourism’s projection of one million visitors during the tournament period, as unrealistic.
Total arrivals as at last week (January 23) has been put at only 7,094 but an industry analyst told the dailyEXPRESS that it is a good enough figure, considering that the country did not engage in any international tourism promotion activities prior to the tournament.
Critics had challenged and questioned government’s basis for the 1m projection, but officials including Deputy Information Minister Frank Agyekum insisted that reports of hotels being overbooked is enough indication of the multitude that will be converging in Ghana.
With four stadiums that could take a maximum of 120,000 spectators, it was always a wonder whether the 1m visitors being talked about were going to be in Ghana to watch the game from TV sets. The projection was the more intriguing when it became clear that both the LOC and the tourism ministry had not activated any marketing campaigns outside of Ghana to promote the country’s tourism sites and the entertainment activities (if any) that visitors to the country can enjoy.
Akin to the worrying perception in 2007 that the mere fact that Ghana was celebrating its Golden Jubilee, tourists will flood the country, officials lived under the false impression that people would decide to come to Ghana just because there is a tournament.
The figures from the GIS may not shock those who never believed in the 1m projection like Professor Albert Bane of the Geography & Tourism Department of the University of Cape Coast. In an interview with the dailyEXPRESS, he wondered what benchmarks were used in determining the projection, noting that while there will be visitors, the 1m projection is ambitious.
According to him, the Department contacted the LOC to provide services relating to how the country can maximise the opportunity of hosting the tournament through tourism. But the LOC did not acknowledge the proposal submitted.
In the wake of the ‘disappointing’ arrivals, hotel owners who were made to believe that business will be booming, have started complaining about low patronage. Some hotel owners told The Chronicle newspaper in Kumasi that contrary to assurances given them, their facilities are not being patronised.
“Some of them were, therefore, forced to embark on massive renovations and expansions of their facilities, but indications are that their expectations might not be met, because most of their facilities were yet to be booked” wrote The Chronicle in its Friday January 25, 2008 edition.
Interestingly, the Ashanti regional manager of the Ghana Tourist Board Bernard Nsiah is reported that the hotel owners cannot blame the LOC because their responsibility was toward the provision of hotels for teams and officials.
The hotel owners are however arguing that but for the assurances given them and the workshops organised to let them know that there will be lots of people arriving; they wouldn’t have spent lots of money expanding their facilities.
It wasn’t only hotel and hospitality owners who rushed to take advantage of the expected 1m visitors, even the GIS got to work in readiness for the large number of people. The Controller of Immigration in charge of Operations, Laud Ofori Affrifah told the Daily Graphic that because of the projected arrivals, as many as 1,000 officers were mobilised for the operation.
Special clearance zones were set up at Aflao, Elubo, Paga and the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) to facilitate swift entry of supporters, while a special games manifest was designed for people coming in specifically for the tournament.
According to the statistics, 2,546 have come through the KIA; 1,815 through Elubo; 1,772 through Aflao; 767 through Paga; Tamale 102; Gonokrom 80 and Half Assini 12.
Out of the 1,815 who came through Elubo, as many as 1,420 all of whom were Ivorians returned after the Ivory Coast- Nigeria game. 76 Guineans are also reported to have left after the opening game.
Story by Frank ADDO