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How an improved transport sector can grow Ghana's domestic tourism

A white man or African American woman flies into Ghana, stays in a hotel and steps out occasionally in shorts, t-shirt, and sunglasses with a camera around his/her neck.

Visiting tourist site after the other and taking pictures. For many, this is what tourism means. Does it only have to be foreigners visiting our tourist sites and attractions? Have we as Ghanaians exhausted all the tourist sites available to us? When was the last time you visited a tourist site in Ghana? These questions expose the lack of a proper domestic tourism plan and the complete lack of interest by local folk to travel and experience the beauty and tradition of their own countries. In our quest to develop Ghana’s tourism industry, one critical facet we should pay close attention to is domestic tourism. How do we get our own local people to travel, tour and experience Ghana? Many government and private institutions have executed so many plans and put in efforts to grow our domestic tourism. However, as identified by the hospitality report for Ghana launched by Africa’s leading online travel website, Jumia Travel, transportation is key to the development of any tourism industry. Jumia Travel looks at how an improved transport sector can help grow domestic tourism.

Local flights - Sadly, out of over 28million Ghanaians, you will struggle to find a quarter of this number who have ever travelled via an aircraft. Mainly aircrafts are believed to be for long distances and overseas travel. However, these days with time and convenience being top of many agendas, local flights have become more of a necessity than a luxury. In Ghana, although the majority of airline companies that operate here are foreign owned, many domestic airlines have come and go. Antrak Air, Starbow, Flight 540 and Africa World Airlines constitute the very few domestic airlines that fly to certain cities. From Accra, these flights go to Kumasi, Takoradi, and Tamale. Although domestic air travel is at the minimum, it’s benefits and contribution to the development of domestic tourism cannot be overemphasized. To improve interest in domestic tourism, more domestic airlines are needed along with very affordable rates for tickets. Already existing airlines should also widen their scope by doing more flights per day/week to destinations with attractive tourist sites. On this note, Government and its legislative subsidiaries should ensure the needed infrastructure and technology are in place to accommodate this expansion. If you can fly to Tamale and back in 3 days for less than GHS500, then I believe once a year, you can go on a trip to see the Safari up north.

Intercity bus system - Who remembers STC, OA, and M-PLAZA? Of course, they are still in operations but how effective is intercity transport these days? The credibility and surety seem to have eluded us when it comes to the intercity bus system in Ghana. Many of the stations or terminals are in very bad conditions and the buses are nothing to write home about. How easy is it to tour Ghana alone? In other parts of the world, many local people just get up, pack their bags and before you know it, they have gone around the country. All they need to do is grab a ticket from one point to the next. Many times they book these tickets in advance online. The road network is effective and the buses are well maintained. You may even find it difficult to differentiate between a bus ride and a flight. What can we do in Ghana to develop tourism? Let’s look at revamping the intercity bus system where modern buses are available and are affordable for all locals to travel freely around the country. Moving from Kumasi to Accra and then to Keta shouldn’t be difficult. At this stage, the interest would have been gathering with many more local people desiring to travel.

Railways - This particular point is one that always gets a lot of attention and hype but little seems to be done about it. If you were born after the 80’s, then it is very likely that you haven’t had a train experience. Hold on! Actually, in the past few years, Ghana has had some trains moving here and there right? The trains branded with the national colours seem to be scarce and can be sighted in only a handful of places. The rail lines look more like the 8th wonder of the world. How our trains managed to ply these rails until one actually nearly fell off was a wonder to many. Imagine going from Cape Coast to Sunyani in 45 minutes. From the Cape Coast castle to the Kintampo waterfalls that fast and at affordable prices, why won’t any Ghanaian want to travel and see these historic sites? Trains are quicker and link several cities and towns. There is no traffic with trains. Modern trains, as well as better railway lines, are needed to make the railways in Ghana more attractive for users. With this, interest in travelling for tourism will increase.

Taxi & Trotro - There is not a single Ghanaian who doesn’t know ‘’trotro’’ by now. Even if you have never used one, you are sure to have seen it somewhere around time. ‘’Trotro’’ typically refers to mini buses used as public transport between short distances in suburbs and towns. A taxi in the western world may refer to a more luxurious vehicle that picks you from one point to the other for a fee. In Ghana, a taxi is a multi coloured saloon car typically with yellow used commercially to transport individuals from one point to the other. Although taxies are deemed more luxurious than the trotros, you will find some taxi’s that do not deserve to be on our roads. There are even some ‘’trotros’’ that should be taken off our roads immediately. They are generally unsafe and endanger the lives of everyone by merely being on the road. The state of taxi’s and trotro’s in major cities often deter many local people from going on tour. In Accra, there are many tourist sites that one can visit but without a personal car, you may have to reply on taxi’s or ‘’trotro’’. Since many people don’t trust the quality of these modes of transport which often come at quite high fares also, they are not motivated in any way to tour their immediate environments.

Roads - Most of the modes of transportation in Ghana use roads. Bad roads mean limited or no access to destinations of interest. For tourism, without good roads, many people will not be pushed into leaving their comfort zones. Many of our historic tourist sites are located in far away towns and villages which makes it already difficult to access. When good buses and vehicles are provided, they would need good roads to run on. If it’s easy and fast to move from one tourist site to the other, why won’t anyone want to travel? Even those with personal cars won’t have a problem driving from their homes just to enjoy some time at a nearby tourist destination with their families.

Improving the transport sector by providing all the above, while ensuring a proper maintenance culture, will definitely help grow our domestic tourism. To sell Ghana to the outside world, we as Ghanaians first need to travel. An effective transportation system will make domestic tourism accessible and affordable to all. Then we will know Ghana, see Ghana and feel Ghana well.