A strong lineup of leaders in the tourism industry packed the conference room at the Accra Tourist Information Centre for the 2nd Annual Women in Tourism Summit. Women from different industries and a number of highly respected Queen Mothers were in attendance at the event. Their role is especially important in some communities where they play an important part in attracting tourists to their townships. The theme this year was “Empowering women in Ghana’s tourism industry.” It was clear from the overflowing crowd the importance of this industry to women. Ghana has been a key travel destination place in West Africa for many years. Especially this year with its ‘Year of Return’ initiative welcoming people from the global African diaspora to visit the country. CNN even named Ghana in fourth place on its annual list of travel destinations. It was announced in January that Ghana expected an additional 500,000 visitors to the country because of ‘Year of Return’.
In preparation for the spike in tourism, many in the sector have put plans in place for arrivals. Women play a key role in the industry, especially since they are a majority. You can find women in many positions from Travel Agent to Airline Hostess to Tour Operator. The goal of the Women in Tourism Summit is to provide a place where learning can happen as well as provide networking opportunities for women working in tourism and other related industries.
Hon. Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture gave the Keynote address. She was happy to see so many women represented and committed to being a part of the development in the sector. She even offered to be a support system for new ideas and proposals. “I charge the [Tourism] Summit to come out with a solid and definite actionable proposal for the empowerment of women in the tourism industry.” She went on to say, “I assure you that my ministry will look at those proposals and it will receive the needed and requisite attention for implementation to assure the success of women in businesses in the tourism sector.” Her words were encouraging to those who have great ideas for the future of tourism.
Stella Fubara Obinwa, Director of International Operations, Dubai Tourism was insightful in her address. She said when working in tourism, you must recognize what your country has to offer, know your strengths and use that to your advantage. She spoke about the success Dubai has had despite being a ‘desert’ they have managed to become one of Africa’s top tourist destinations. In Dubai “the government supports the trade and tourism probably more than any other industry in that city.” Her statements were a reminder of the importance of government in building a country’s tourism sector. Ghana needs to remain committed beyond the 2019 Year of Return campaign to maintain its position as a leader in tourism for West Africa.
Obinwa said there are key pillars to success in tourism and they are, trade partners, government, community, education and media. “The media is your voice to the world,” she said. “Media can make or break you.” She implored everyone to take seriously the value of using celebrities and influencers to engage in your business because they have the power to influence their fans to make buying decisions. This is largely in the digital marketing and social media spaces that have become key in any company’s marketing strategy.
Digital marketing is often left out of business planning in Ghana and companies will find themselves falling behind if they don’t take it seriously. Elizabeth Tay, Team Lead, Genie Intel Ltd., gave a presentation on digital marketing and web technology. She said you can’t solely rely on traditional forms of advertising like billboards and print. It’s difficult to track and target your customers using those forms of media while digital tools allow you to target who you want and track visitors to your site with accuracy. She advised the women to use digital marketing if they want the best results in their advertising.
Radio Personality, Akosua Hanson, from YFM, moderated the panel discussion, Executives Dialogue: Views from Industry Captains. The panel included Stella Appenteng, Managing Director APSTAR Tours, Ghana, Adoma Pepreh, Country Manager, Visa Ghana and Thenjiwe Morule, Head of Sales and Marketing BCD, Travel South Africa. The discussion began with each sharing their journey on becoming leaders in the tourism sector. It quickly shifted to some of the challenges women face in the industry. “Being female and being black are obstacles in South Africa,” Peprah said. Although she is Ghanaian, she has spent a significant amount of time living in South Africa. She said it’s helped her gain perspectives because she’s been exposed to other things in the world. Their discussion was one that could resonate with many women across all industries. Gender has often been an obstacle in many areas, even when women outnumber men.
The tourism ties between Ghana and Dubai, have proven to be strong over the years. In her keynote, Obinwa said that “Tourism is a two-way street and you can’t survive on one-way traffic.” It explained why she was here, along with Assia Riccio, both working within the tourism industry in Dubai. Because as much as Ghanaians travel to Dubai, it’s also important to have people return on full flights to Ghana. It’s important in the maintenance of a thriving tourism relationship.
Assia Riccio, is the Founder of Evolvin’ Women, Dubai. Her social enterprise supports young women and works to build them to have strong skills and careers in tourism-related industries. She is focused on dispelling stereotypes about women from Ghana. She wants to show young women the possibilities are endless when you work towards a goal.
Many of the women at the event are entrepreneurs who have faced the challenge of seeking out funding to support their business. Habiba Sumani, Director, National Board for Small Scale Industries gave a quick presentation on “Raising Funding for Tourism Enterprises.” He went through some of the mistakes businesses make when seeking funding and spoke on some of the basics business-owners can practice in order to assure a flow of funds to support your business. He said that there are many sources to help finance your business, but stressed that it’s important for them to track their spending and learn how to save so that when they approach someone for financial support, they can have confidence that you know how to manage funds.
Mr. Akwasi Agyeman, CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority spoke early on during the event, but he also gave closing remarks. “I want to thank the speakers and panellists…. I think it’s been a very fruitful day, I have learned a lot and I believe the networking means we can all engage [with] each other”.
Written by Ivy Prosper