Participants, speakers, organizer and government officials at Accra Weizo, Accra, Ghana.
harp on digitalization
The 6th Accra Weizo West Africa Travel Expo 2023 in Accra Ghana may have come and gone but one thing stakeholders in the tourism eco-system and participants would ruminate on and never forget is the suggested solutions by speakers and other governments officials on how tourism can be harnessed and strive using digitalization to stimulate activities and enhance its revenue.
It is a fact that the Africa continent is replete with tourism destinations that are sought after by many tourists from America, Europe, Asia and elsewhere and one way to sustain and increase this desire to explore the continent is to simplify the means of movement, payments and in a seamless manner.
This is the platform Accra Weizo on a yearly basis has provided to bring all stakeholders to a round table to discuss and dissect the challenges and off course proffer solutions to the perceived humongous problems militating against tourism growth and development in the Africa region specifically in West Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer, DCEO, Ghana Tourism Authority, Mr. Ekow Sampson said this about the Accra Weizo, “is one of the events geared towards getting stakeholders in the tourism industry in West Africa to cooperate amongst themselves. The event aims at creating a seamless travel environment in West Africa by bringing together travel professionals, consumers suppliers, intermediaries, media personnel, and academia from the Sub region for interaction, effective marketing, sharing of knowledge, and promotion of tourism in West Africa”.
This year’s theme is:Tourism Development Through Digitalization: Is The Sub-Region Ready?
Setting the ball rolling in his opening remarks, Mr. Sampson gave statistics of revenue generated by the tourism industry globally pre and post COVID-19, the pandemic impact on Africa in particular Ghana and Nigeria, decline in revenue and job losses.
From the statistics, it was clear that tourism has the potential to be the oil of the sub-region the world needs and to significantly reduce unemployment.
According to Sampson, “The global tourism sector, which was nearly three times larger than agriculture, amounted to 10.3% of the world’s GDP, or approximately USD 9.6 trillion”.
“In 2019, international visitors spent approximately USD 1.8 trillion, which represented 6.8% of total exports. In the same year, the sector accounted for one-quarter of all new jobs created globally and made up 10.3% of all jobs, totaling 333 million. COVID-19 severely impacted the tourism sector, reducing its contributions to the global GDP by nearly half in 2020 and subsequently recovering slowly in 2021 to a total global GDP contribution of USD 5.8 trillion. In 2020, over 62 million jobs were lost in the tourism sector, and spending by domestic and international visitors declined by nearly 50% and 70%, respectively”.
He added, “The COVID-19 pandemic situation in Africa and Ghana were not different from the global tourism perspective painted above. Before the global lockdown, 68.8 million people came to Africa as tourists in 2019”.
“These tourists and their spending power contributed to 6.8% of Africa’s GDP and 25.48 million jobs to the continent. However, by the time the pandemic hit, almost 6 million jobs and $86 billion had been wiped out in Africa. In Ghana, International tourism arrivals declined by 68.5%, from 1.130,307 in 2019 to 355,108 in 2020”.
To further grow the industry, the DCEO GTA said, technology is key to all operational, structural, marketing, and strategic levels to facilitate global communication between suppliers, consumers, and intermediaries.
The benefits he listed include: increase in the overall efficiency and effectiveness.
“We should be aware that the tourism industry is being transformed by a number of key technologies, including virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), social media and so on. It is therefore important for tourism enterprises to embrace digitization and innovation after post COVID to drive sustainable and inclusive growth of tourism in Africa”.
In his opening remarks, the organizer and founder of Accra Weizo West Africa Travel Expo and Nigeria’s Tourism Ambassador, Mr. Ikechi Uko says, Accra Weizo is meant to sell Africa as a destinations and West Africa supplies all the tourists.
“The most successful airline in West Africa is a Ghanaian airline, is called Africa World Airways, why because the Ghanaian airline can fly into Nigeria many times as possible, they operate two flights into Lagos, Abuja, they have more flights than any other airline”.
Uko emphasized that for Africa to be the center of tourism, there must be free movement and accessibility to destinations without hassles but unfortunately, this seem not to be in place in West Africa, a sad commentary he said.
“ECOWAS was the first regional organization to mute integration but since 1973 we have not moved beyond that, East Africa that started 5 years in the northern corridor, they have a common visa, they are doing common airspace, roaming, original phone, we cant integrate not to talk of now, in many things things we started first but we have failed Africa”.
He said, if West Africa does not get itself together, Africa is not going to get itself together, no matter how well the sided region is moving fast, they will still need West Africa with that vision, he added that, the region needs to talk to their leaders that West Africa had not made progress since 1973.
“There needs to be work in the policy area, lets see a common visa even if it is in three countries, lets stop the too many checks on the road”.
In their various goodwill messages, representative of the Ghana Tourism Federation, said, they were super excited to witness the return of Accra Weizo and commended the resilience of the organizer of the event and partnership with the Ghana Tourism Authority.
He noted that, the theme of the 6th Accra Weizo 2023, “is a perfect and apt agenda to build back Peer our tourism development.
The GHATOF rep. said, efforts are on by the Ghana Government to ease the entry of tourists and other visitors into the country with the cancellation of filling of embarkation and disembarkation forms by travelers at the Kotoka International Airport as announced by the Ghana Immigration Service through Ghana Civil Aviation Authority.
He stressed that, the deployment of digital technologies to simplify travel gives travelers great experience.
“The transition from this analogue system/process of capturing travelers’ data on board/arrival and departure was experienced by my good self and other travelers during a trip to Dakar, Senegal on behalf of Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF) for a conference of Confederation of ECOWAS Private Tourism Industries (COPITOUR-ECOWAS). The convenience and delight of this digitalized travel experience as expressed by most travelers, cannot be overemphasized”.
The Chairman Board, Ghana Tourism Authority, Hon. Seth Adjei Baah assured that, the government was working to ensure that, all impediments to free movement either by air or road was addressed.
He noted that, the region can use the power of digitalization to create an environment that encourages innovation and competition, that provides a platform for business to reach new customers and capture more of the existing markets.
Baah however advised that, this transformation must come with safeguards to protect consumers right and ensure the right data is collected and sourced and customers informed about their digital footprints.
“And ensure that the tourism industry is able to attract the best talents and provide a safe secured working environment and that businesses are able to compete fairly in a global market”.
The Director General, National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism, NIHOTOUR, Nura Kangiwa represented Mr. Famogbiyele Taiwo, Director Studies, NIHOTOUR, applauded the partnership between the GTA and Accra Weizo and seeks to partner and synergize with the Ghana Tourism Authority in the area of training in hospitality and tourism.
“I think there is a need for us to share that experience, where you are better, then we can share that and, where we are better, we can share that so that all of us can take West Africa to greater heights”.
In his keynote address, the Ghana Minister of Arts, Culture and Tourism, Mohammed Awal represented by the Director, Human Resources, Mr. Otto Langmagne described the collaboration between the GTA and Accra Weizo as an appropriate one.
He said, tourism cannot be enhanced without digitalization in this age of globalization.
According to him, this collaboration is either going to be a push or pull from either side of Ghana and Nigeria, stressing that, what is important is the synergy because none can achieve success without each other in enhancing tourism in the sub-region.
“The cooperation and collaboration is aimed in facilitating travel within the sub-region. Therefore, it has become apparent that the travel professionals within the sub-region will have to champion this process. It is therefore appropriate and refreshing that this initiative has provided the platform for Ghana to lead the discussion in tourism promotion in the sub-region”.