Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal has said that the Ministry has unveiled several activities that will grow Ghana’s tourism sector to make it the leading contributor to Gross Domestic Product.
He said the Ministry has embarked on a robust domestic tourism drive, targeting one million Ghanaians to visit tourism sites around the country, every year.
Dr Awal was speaking during the commissioning of a receptive facility and the Big Tree Tourist site at Aprokumase near Akyem Manso in the Asene Manso Akroso District of Eastern Region.
He said about 250,000 diasporans were expected in Ghana in the last quarter of 2021 under the ‘Beyond the return project.’
The project is a 10-year initiative of the government to promote tourism and homecoming of Africans and Ghanaians in the Diaspora to foster economic relations and investments.
The Big Tree Tourist Site was not originally designated as a tourist site until 2004, when under the leadership of late Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, then Minister for Tourism, a receptive facility was built for the site and officially listed the Big Tree as a tourist site.
The project was financed by the Ghana Tourism Development Company (GTDC) through its internally generated revenue with support from the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA).
While urging the two bodies to discharge their mandate proficiently, Dr Awal also charged them to make sure that Oda Big Tree Site received 3,000 visitors every year.
He said the site would be made one of the best tourist attraction spots and called on stakeholders to ensure its proper upkeep to create job opportunities and also last for generations to come.
Eastern Regional Minister, Mr Seth Acheampong said the region abounds in many natural tourist sites, heritage, culture, leisure, and eco-tourism, however, “more focus is given to agriculture, trade, commerce, construction, and other economic activities.”
He said the government did not doubt that tourism has the potential to engineer Ghana’s economic growth and job creation that would transform the lives of citizens.He said the region was focused on upgrading its existing tourist sites and developing discoveries as part of the national agenda to promote the country’s tourism sector.
Chief Executive Officer of GTDC, Mr Kwadwo Odame Antwi said the re-development project of the Oda Big Tree site involved two major activities that included; complete renovation of the receptive facility and upgrade of the entrance and hiking trail in the Essen Epam Forest where the Big Tree is located as well as the Esuboni forest reserve.
The general renovation would involve the complete re-roofing of the facility, reconstruction of toilet and urinal facilities, visitor information area, a cafeteria, office, arts, and craft shop, and children’s playground.
The rest included the development of a paved car park and the creation of an event space to be used for occasions such as parties, funerals, graduation, and passing out ceremonies.
Obrempong Sintim Poku III, Benkumhene of the Akyem Kotoku Traditional Area, urged the district assembly to create avenues to generate revenue from the tourist site to embark on more development projects in the area.
He also called on authorities to deal with illegal chainsaw operators who have resorted to depleting the forest by logging trees for personal gains to the detriment of the people and the government.
Tourism is a key economic driver in Ghana which generates foreign exchange earnings, creates jobs and wealth as well as stimulates other sectors of the economy.
However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown regulations implemented worldwide, have caused unmitigated impacts on the global economy, hitting the tourism and events industry hard.
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