Mr Charles Buabin, Tema Regional Director, Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), says tourism plays a crucial role in promoting and fostering sustainable rural development.
He said rural tourism could be stimulated and enhanced further to contribute immensely in income generation and job creation for a diversified rural economy.
The Regional Director was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Tema over the weekend to commemorate this year's World Tourism Day on the global theme: "Tourism and Rural Development".
According to him, rural tourism was increasingly becoming important, contributing to the development of communities and the sustainability of rural populations and economy generally.
Whiles responding to the relationship between local tourism and rural development, he explained that "rural tourism helps to boost domestic economy as local residents position themselves to own small businesses along the value chain to improve their livelihoods.
" He said "tourism brings technology transfer to the rural areas that may impact positively on the livelihood of rural dwellers to make valuable contribution to rural economies" and further stated that tourism had a positive correlation to development in rural settlements with the ability to preserve and promote natural and cultural heritage, cutting down rural-urban migration.
He cited the Volta Estuary in Ada, the Beachfront of Prampram and beaches along the Accra-Tema beach road at Sakumono, hotels and hospitality facilities as some tourism sites that were significantly impacting the lives of the local people through the provision of jobs.
He informed that plans were afoot to establish a Paragliding Training School uplands around Osuwem, in the Shai-Osudoku with the aim of giving local Ghanaians the needed skills to fly revelers, during the Kwahu Easter paragliding festival, hosted by the GTA annually.
Speaking on the expected impact the Tourism Regulations, 2019 Legislative Instrument (LI 2393) had on rural development, the Regional Director mentioned the provision of training for tour and site guides and indirect certified and licensed jobs for people engaged in support services, such as tour guides, escorts and tour guards.
He indicated that, the Covid-19 Pandemic had immensely impacted the tourism sector, and said "tourism is a major pillar of the economy, providing incomes and jobs for over 275,023 direct and 388,000 indirect jobs in 2019 with a record of 1.
13 million arrivals and a contribution of some 3.
3 billion dollars in foreign exchange – 27.
9 per cent over the previous year.
" "The sector posted a growth of 18 per cent, well above the global rate of growth of five per cent.
There was an increase in the registration of tourism enterprises by 29 per cent, " he noted, adding that expectation was to leverage on the 2019 performance to further boost the sector beyond the year of return when the crisis Covid-19 pandemic struck.
In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, Mr Buabin stated that the Tema Regional Directorate of the GTA provided; Personal Protective Equipment, thermometer guns, hand sanitizers, nose mask, soaps, Veronica buckets, information materials among others, to 98 establishments which were still operational in Tema.
He said besides aggressively marketing the country as the preferred tourism destination in West Africa, The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, had launched the "Beyond the Return" initiative, spanning 10 years, aimed at further energizing the momentum gained during the year of return in 2019.
"The focus on rural tourism, with the coming into force of LI 2393 – Tourism Sites Regulations (2019) gives this year's commemoration an even bigger twist of creating possibilities for the rural community, their respective district assemblies and resource owners to define ways to oversee attractions according to the regulations specified in the act 2393.
" As part of activities lined up for this year's commemoration of World Tourism Day in Tema, he said the Authority hoped to visit one of its Coconuts Plantation Projects at Tema New Town Beach and the Community 22 Polyclinic to better nurture them.