The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) has predicted a further drop in the number of visitors to holiday resorts at Ada and other water-related tourist sites in the country, following the purported drowning of hip life artiste, Castro, at the estuary of the Volta River in Ada.
The concerns of the authority, which was expressed by the acting deputy Executive Director in charge of Finance and Administration, Mr Samson Donkor, come in the wake of a drop in the number of visitors to the Aqua Safari and Peace Hotel resorts, where Castro reportedly lodged prior to being pronounced missing on July 6, 2014
The GRAPHIC BUSINESS learnt that the number of visitors to the two resorts had dropped from about 500 people per a week prior to the incident to a little over 10 in the week ending July 19.
The reduction in the number, as hinted by the Tourism Authority, will translate into revenue losses and possibly affect annual earnings from tourism; an industry that is gunning to overtake gold and cocoa as the leading foreign exchange earners for the country.
Castro, whose real name is Theophilus Tagoe, was reported missing at the estuary alongside his female companion, Janet Bandu, in the evening of July 6, this year.
The two were said to have gone water-skiing with a rented Jet Ski on the estuary when they reportedly drowned. News of their drowning led to the dispatch of some search teams made up of personnel from the Marine Unit of the Ghana Police Service, the Navy, local fisher folks and other private individuals to the lake and river in an attempt to locate them; dead or alive.
Given that the issue had attracted wide media coverage, the acting deputy Executive Director the Tourism Authority said people would temporarily limit their appetite for exploring water related sites in the country until such a time when the scare and fear that the incident had generated subsided.
“It will take sometime before people get over this. In effect, the numbers will reduce because the whole thing definitely has a negative impact on the industry,” Mr Donkor told the paper in an interview.
International tourists arrivals to the country have been picking up over the years, rising from a handful of about 286,000 tourists in 1995 to 1.1 million visitors in 2012, before peaking to about 1.3 million visitors last year.
Domestic tourism has been experiencing similar increments over the years.
The same applies to the earnings. Revenues from the tourism sector in general rose from some US$237,200 in 1995 to US$1.87 billion in 2010 and then to US$2.5 billion in 2013, data from the Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts (MoTCCA) showed.
The 2013 earnings meant that tourism had overtaken foreign remittances to become the third highest foreign exchange earner after gold and cocoa.
This, therefore, means that the country needs to put in place strategic measures that will help entice more people into the various tourism sites dotted across the country.
Although Mr Donkor said the authority, its mother ministry and sister agencies were implementing such policies, he said “accidents” such as the reported drowning of Castro on the Volta Lake, one of the most patronised water sites in the country, could not be avoided.
“Personally, I think that it was an accident. You see, you can put in place all the precautions to avoid any danger to people who use your facilities but the point is, apart from all those measures, you cannot prevent visitors from going into excesses,” he said.
“Again, I don’t know the size of the jet ski but for two adults to sit on it and ride over an estuary is naturally dangerous. So, no matter what, an accident can occur,” Mr Donkor added, explaining that jet skis are mostly used in calmer waters and not in estuaries where the water current is mostly rough.
Policing water sites
Currently, the Tourism Authority, which has responsibility over tourist sites in the country, does not have the regulatory power to license and regulate the operations of beaches, resorts and other water related sites.
As a result, activities at those sites are mostly regulated by the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) where these facilities are located.
The Tourism Authority is, however, seeking to reverse that through the review of the law establishing it.
“When the new law comes into effect, we will have a more effective control over beach facilities because we will license them. When we do that, we will set up standards for which they will have to observe before they can operate. One of the new standards will be that they should have lifeguards all the time, have life jackets and other precautionary measures,” the acting deputy Executive Director of the GTA said.
The new law, he said, was currently with the Attorney-General’s Department for revision after which it would be sent to Parliament for debate and possible passage.
All these, Mr Donkor said, are expected to be completed before the close of the year.