Interested in Tourism?

Emmanuel Nii Adjah Badger

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Gideon Seyram Tsike

+233 302 665125

Investing in Ghana's Tourism Sector

Ghana’s Tourism Sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country. In 2016, it was the fourth highest forex earner for Ghana. The sector employed about 125,000 people directly and a further 313,000 indirectly in 2016.

Tourist arrivals continue to increase in Ghana, hitting 1.2 million in 2016. Visits of friends and relatives (VFR) tops at 24.7% whilst business visits stand at 23%. 19% of all visitors to Ghana in 2016 came for holiday. On the tourism expenditure side, 29% of all expenditure by tourists go into accommodation whereas food and beverages take 14%.

The USA, UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands are the top five tourism sources for tourists visiting Ghana.


There are many sectors & players in the tourism sector in Ghana. The Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOFF) which is the private sector umbrella body for tourism organizations in Ghana has 25 organizations under its umbrella. These organizations include the Ghana Hotels’ Association; Ghana Association of Travel & Tours; Tour Operators Union; Association of Night Clubs and the Tourism Writer’s Foundation.

In the hotel’s sub-sector, the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), which is the government body mandated to regulate the industry estimates that there are about 2,800 hotels registered across the various categories in Ghana. Of this number, occupancy is highest in the 3 and 4-star category, with about 72% occupancy whereas the 5-star category has occupancy of about 68%.

Whilst GHATOF is a federation of players in the tourism industry, GTA is the government agency tasked to regulate the industry.


Tourism has overlapping relationship with almost every sector of the economy.

  1. Agriculture: The linkage between tourism and agriculture is direct. The average tourist in Ghana spends 7 days during which food forms an important part of this stay. The produce from agriculture is used to stock hotels and restaurants where tourists eat. Government policy is to focus on gastronomy in the tourism space, giving Ghanaian gastronomers the space to grow and ultimately expand Ghanaian gastronomy abroad.
  2. Agro-processing/ manufacturing: Closely linked with agriculture is agro-processing and manufacturing. Finished and semi-finished processed foods are used in the tourism industry to meet the many needs of tourists.
  3. Infrastructure (Ports & Railways): It is estimated that about 75% of all tourist arrivals into Ghana is through the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), with the rest coming in through mainly the three border towns of Aflao, Elubo and Paga. Also, tourist on cruise ships and chartered boats visit Ghana from time to time. The KIA serves as a first port of call for tourists. It is in this line, and the increasing number of visitors through the KIA that the government is undertaking the construction of the Terminal 3 at the KIA to have boarding bridges and expanded facilities. Already, the existing facilities at Terminal 2 has been expanded. There have also be recent upgrades of the 3 existing domestic airports at Takoradi, Kumasi and Tamale. These domestic airports have increased the number of tourists that visit attractions across the country as it opened-up the country. Plans are underway to turn the Kumasi Airport into an international airport. Ghana’s port infrastructure has also seen expansions with a dedicated berth being designed for cruise ships and floating hospitals.
  4. Roads & Transportation: Roads and Transportation is another sector that the tourism sector has a direct relationship with. Often, tourists need ground transportation to get to the various tourist sites. Government has embarked on a plan to improve the road networks leading to tourist sites. Also, many more private investments are being sought into providing tourist serviced buses for designated routes.
  5. Health & Education: Both health and education has direct bearing on tourism, with a lot of travelers now opting for educational or health tourism directly.


The policy direction of government is to encourage more investments into community based eco-tourism facilities.

In its 2017 budget to the Parliament of Ghana, the government stated that the Mole National Park, the Accra Eco-Park, the Shai-Hills Resource Reserve and the Kakum National Park will be the focus of government by fully exploring the tourism potential of these sites and developing them.

There is also the drive to attract international brands in the hospitality industry by making such companies assess the full available incentives and exemptions that they can benefit from.

Ghana’s Tourism Policy states that the type of tourism to be promoted shall be non-mass and shall focus on that which shall respect and conserve the natural, cultural, historical, ecological and environmental heritage. 

The following will be focused on:

  1. Culture tourism with focus on festivals, events, rural tourism.
  2. Heritage tourism with focus on the slave route.
  3. Recreational tourism focusing on beach, golf and theme parks.
  4. Adventure tourism with focus on rainforest eco-tourism; game parks; whitewater rafting etc.
  5. Events tourism with focus on conferences.


The government, in its 2017 budget statement to the Parliament of Ghana, noted the development of a 240-acre marine drive project as one of the focus of government for 2017. The land, stretches on the coastline of Osu, Accra and is intended to incorporate into the development, residential facilities, offices, schools, hotels, retail spaces as well as recreational establishments.

Also top of government agenda is the development of the Afua Sutherland Children’s Park in Accra, which is in need of renovation.


There are generous incentives specifically for this sector. Goods imported by Hotels and Restaurants (including fast food chains with a seating capacity of thirty or more persons) under GIPC Act, 2013 (Act 865) are admissible at 10% concessionary duty rate. The items considered which should be in the appropriate quantities (relating to size, number of rooms, seating capacity etc.) are as follows: Refrigerators/deep freezers, Television sets, Air-conditioners, Public Address  Systems, Furnishing( including carpets, bedding and fixtures), Fans, Radio sets and Crockery.

Ghana is a safe investment destination. Guarantees against expropriation of private investments provided under law are buttressed by the Ghanaian Constitution. Some investment guarantees are detailed below:

  1. Free transferability of capital, profits and dividends
  2. Insurance against non-commercial risks – Ghana is a signatory to the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Convention
  3. Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) – to rationalize tax obligations of investors in order to prevent double taxation. 11 DTAs have been entered into by Ghana with 9 of those ratified by the respective parliaments and the 2 yet to be ratified. A further 5 agreements are in various stages of negotiation and as such, are yet to be signed.
  4. There are also general incentives which provide for automatic incentives and benefits including income tax incentives.


Globally, the trends that are shaping tourism for 2017 include the following, according to TreckSoft:

  • Food Tourism

Food tourism has become the emerging trend among travelers everywhere. Many travelers consider it to be one of the best ways to get to know the story of the place they are traveling to. These experiences are closely tied to the culture of the location.

According to Skift UK Editor Patrick Whyte at TouRRoir 2016, food experiences are not limited to simply dining out. It includes cooking courses, farm tours and the classic food markets, which make up about 95% of these experiences.

Operators who are providing a food experience can benefit by ensuring it connects products with people and the traditions of a destination. With this in mind, every stage of the customer journey can be actively reinforced. 

  • Active & Adventure Trips

Active & Adventure travel is the number 2 trend in tourism for 2017 and include experiences such as “an African Safari, swimming with whales in Mexico or Austrailia or hiking the Swiss Alps”. Africa, North & South America are top destinations for customers. Adventure activities such as safari, hiking and cycling are expected to be the stand out choices for 2017.

  • Millennials

Millennials are the youngest generation and also, officially the largest generation in history. They also lead in decision making. They are helping to decide what the major trends and tastes is and are not shy about getting exactly what they want, how they want it. When planning travel, Millennials are used to having their options conveniently available to them. They want to be able to research and book their trips and tours online. 

Millennials are dictating the type and duration of tours and will continue to do so for the next few decades. Countries are beginning to suit their tours and attractions such that they can get the best of this segment of the market. 

  • Responsible Tourism

The UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai is on record to have said that "2017 has been appointed The International Year of Sustainable Tourism by the UN “as a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued”

Global campaigns have been set in place to promote more sustainable forms of travel and countries and industry professionals are beginning to see a shift in the mindset of travelers everywhere. They will be more interested in the environmental, economic and social impact they're making at the destination they visit and are likely to support companies that embody these values.

More travelers are aware of the impact their experiences have on the planet and as a result, are opting for more sustainable measures in their travels.

  • Business & Leisure Travels

Business and leisure travel or (as it's affectionately known around here) "bleisure" is predicted to be a very lucrative trend for tour and activity providers in 2017 and some project that it will rise in popularity. 

Bleisure has been presented as a rising trend for several years, but there is more data suggesting its static in the past five years than its rise. It would suggest that this isn't a new trend but rather, an observation of the latest traveler needs. For generations, people have been extending their business trips into leisure travel and this is expected to continue this year. 

  • Strength of the Chinese Market

The Chinese market for tour and activity companies is the fastest growing tourism source in the last decade; having spent a whooping US$498 billion in outbound tourism in 2015 alone. China has signed a series of Approved Destination Status (ADS) agreement with countries which allow for Chinese companies to organize tours for nationals for a period of up to 30 days. 

These agreements has been a driving force for China’s outbound tourism, with usually, wealthy Chinese being part of the group. Across the globe, countries, states and provinces are taking advantage of this to bolster their tourist sites whilst providing local employment. There are guidelines on the execution of tours under the ADS scheme.


Ghana is the closest landmark to the centre of the earth. The Greenwich meridian,(longitude 0) passes through the port city of Tema, about 15km from the city of Accra. The equator, (latitude 0) lies just 500km below Tema, making Tema.

What makes Ghana competitive include:

  • Easy Accessibility to Ghana : Ghana’s accessibility has improved: airline seat availability has increased and airfares reduced as her “Gateway Programme” takes off to allow more airlines and cruise liners to use Ghana’s ports as “liberalized skies” and “free–ports” respectively. Requirements governing entry formalities have also been liberalized.
  • Political and social advantage: The tourism industry in Ghana has good prospects because Ghana’s political and social stability remain favourable. 
  • Uniqueness and Diversity of Products: Ghana’s product will not face stiff competition in the African region due to its uniqueness and diversity. Ghana rather stands the chance to win a share of the tourist traffic for adventure, leisure and sports as it is the newest destination in that special market.
  • Quality destination with good standard tourism product:  For international tourism, Ghana is being developed as a ‘quality’ destination with a good standard of the tourism product (Tourist attractions, facilities, services and infrastructure) and promoting tourist markets that appreciate and respect Ghana’s history, culture and environment.
  • Inexpensive but trainable labour : Labor is of quality but inexpensive. The minimum labour wage is approximately GH¢8 (US$1.9) per day (as at January 2017). Educational and training institutions in the Travel and Tourism industry have sprung up over the last few years to train and improve the skills of personnel in the industry.
  • High patronage of airlines: Passenger loading figures are fairly high and most flights are full all year round, peaking during times overseas Ghanaians are returning home during holiday times. 

Ghana also offers the following unique blend of advantages to potential investors:

  • A demonstrated commitment to the philosophy and practice of market liberalization policies
  • Investor confidence in the country's economy as evidenced by major successful investments in most sectors of the economy
  • Availability of low-cost labour and a good supply of trained and trainable labour
  • Availability of a stock exchange and other emerging financial markets
  • Progressive institutional development as evidenced by the process of establishing export free zones and factory specific export processing zones for existing firms, as well as emerging bank and non-bank financial institutions
  • Ongoing donor and government support for infrastructure development electricity and water supplies, transport and communications
  • Quota-free access to United States of America and European Union markets
  • Strong private sector advocacy groups such as the Private Enterprise Foundation and the Private Sector Advisory Group
  • A strategic location for communication facilities in terms of international commerce
  • Warm and friendly people and a high degree of personal safety


  Ghana, lying in the tropics has several unique attractions that make it appealing to continental and international visitors.  Some of these attractions include:

  • White sands coastline: Ghana has a coastline of 539 km of white, sandy beaches. The seas have long stretches without rocks making it ideal for surfing, swimming and other water sports. In addition, the many rivers and lakes support water sport, with the tributary of the Volta River being a popular location for water sports in Ghana. 
  • Castles and Forts: Ghana has thirty-three (33) forts and castles dotted along the cost with a few located inland. Of this number, twenty-one (21) have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. These castles and forts, mostly constructed between 1482 and 1786 were built and occupied at different times by traders from Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Germany and Britain. They served the gold trade of European chartered companies. Later, they played a significant part in the developing slave trade, and therefore in the history of the Americas, and, subsequently, in the 19th century, in the suppression of that trade.

  In July 2009, the then US President, Barack Obama visited the Cape Coast Castle, one of the biggest castle and also a focal point of the trans-atlantic slave trade. Visits to the castles and forts remain an integral part of attractions in Ghana.

  •  Eco-Tourism: Ghana boast of several eco-tourist sites across the country with over 28 community based eco-tourist sites. From the Buabeng Fiema Monkey Santuary through the Paga Crocodile Pond to the Wechiau Hippo sanctuary, there is always something for the traveler to do. Ghana has integrated the communities where these eco-tourist sites are located into the delivery of tourism service. The country sees this as part of sustainable tourism, which is the future of tourism. 
  • Cultural Tourism: Ghana has over 70 major festivals celebrated at different times throughout the country. The rich culture of Ghana can be seen through the colourful display of culture, be it the Akwesidae of the Ashanti Kingdom, the Deer Hunt Festival of the Effutu people or the Bugum festival of the Gonja people.

Ghana’s festival calendar is all year round, attracting people from across the globe. In 1992, Ghana introduced the Pan-African Festival (PANAFEST) for people of African origin in the diaspora connect with their roots, which they lost during the slave trade.T the idea of this festival is to promote and enhance unity, Pan-Africanism, and the development of the continent of Africa. This festival takes place every two years.

  • Safari: Ghana boasts of wildlife safari in the National Parks. The Mole National Park, which is the biggest national park is located in Northern Ghana and has a variety of tropical animals. Summer safaris are popular among tourists in Ghana.

Tourism in Ghana