The Government has released various packages to partners in the Tourism industry and workers in other businesses as part of measures to cushion them against the hazardous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The package, which is expected to assist businesses to bounce back, include a GHc60 million Stimulus Package to individual businesses and GHc 50 million-facility to support the Media and Creative Arts industry.
The others are a GHc 3 billion facility to players in the Hospitality industry, a GHc 5 million package for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and a GHc 4 million facility for other auxiliary operations.
The Minister for Tourism and Creative Arts, Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyesi announced the relief package at a grand durbar to climax this year's United Nations World Tourism Day (UNWTD) celebrations and exhibition at Takoradi in the Western Region.
The international, of traditional rulers, the media, security services, businesses, and partners in the Tourism industry event on the theme, “Tourism and Rural Development", commenced with a virtual symposium via zoom followed by a health walk, a tree planting exercise, a Sod-Cutting for Damang Arts Training Center and a musical concert at Bogoso.
Oteng-Gyesi said the Tourism sector chalked remarkable successes in the “Year of Return" in 2019, but that the gains had been eroded by the COVID-19 pandemic, hence, the prudent measures taken by the government to promote tourism and preserve national and cultural heritage.
According to her, “Beyond the Return", the industry will bounce back with more attention being focused on the tourist potentials in rural Ghana to accelerate rural development.
According to the Minister, it was refreshing and heart-warming to learn that as the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, about 200,000 visitors from the Diaspora have been billed to visit tourist sites in the country, which position's Ghana the Homeland destination in Africa for international tourism.
Oteng-Gyesi said Ghana had received the "safest tourism stamp” among the comity of nations, a feat, which can boost tourism and increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
She noted that Western Region abounds in immense tourist potentials with special reference to the UNESCO heritage site at Nzulezo, Fort St.
Anthonio among others.
The Ministry she explained would improve upon sanitation at the beaches to harness tourist potentials, to improve visitors’ experience and improve physical ambiance at Ankasa Forest, Fort St.
Anthonio at Axim and Beyin fort near Nzulenzo".
She announced that the Ministry would adopt the Masquerade in Takoradi and support it to perform in December every year to drive more tourists to the Western Region.
It is also the intention of the government to renovate the Takoradi Cultural Centre next year, adding, that the government in collaboration with the University of Mines and Energy (UMaT), would cut the sod for a Gold Museum project at Tarkwa by December 31 this year to preserve tangible and intangible evidence of gold.
She asked MMDCEs to promote tourist sites in their various jurisdictions to ensure sustainable tourism in Ghana.
The Omahene of Esikado Traditional Area, Nana Kobina Nketsia V, who chaired the durbar, described the Western Region as "a sleeping giant of Tourism in Ghana" and stressed the need to reawaken the cultural consciousness of people in the Region to locate the tourist sites and develop them.
He said the Western Region abounds in a host of tourist sites and attractions, which need to be harnessed, saying, “As a people, we have a unique culture such as tourism, which requires hospitality, peace, and unity as a benchmark for development.
” He admonished political actors and Ghanaians to ensure peace, unity and love as we go to the polls on December 07.
Nana Nketsia V added that tourism could not thrive in a violent society, hence, the need to consolidate the peace and tolerance of opposing views.
He reminded society to celebrate the Patriots of Ghana, festivals, forts, castles, and monuments such as museums to make them part of their heritage.
He expressed worry about the pollution of river bodies by galamsey activities and urged the government to deal with both nationals or foreigners who were neck deep in galamsey menace, adding, "as our forebears left the river bodies in purity, we need to preserve it for generations yet unborn".
In a speech read on behalf of the Western Regional Minister, Mr.
Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah said the Western Regional Coordinating Council (WRCC) was making frantic efforts to showcase the Region as tourists’ destination of choice.
He identified 192 coastal lines from Shama to Jomoro with forts and castles and mentioned the operationalization of the WRCC tourist centre as part of measures to promote tourism in the Region.
The Acting Vice-President of the Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF, Mr Kwesi Eyison appealed to the government and other stakeholders to develop rural areas for tourism to thrive and create employment for the youth.