The stories of three resilient entrepreneurs who turned challenges into opportunities while creating a positive…
As the pandemic progresses, vaccines become wider spread and travel restrictions are gradually eased, a whole conversation about the role of entrepreneurship to rebuild the tourism industry has come up.
Considered to be one of the most important sectors in the global economy, the tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. With flights halted and lockdowns imposed due to COVID-19 restrictions, many countries that rely on tourism as their main source of income have suffered a major blow to their economies. What about now – what is the role of tourism businesses in rebuilding the economy? And how should they adapt to this new reality?
How important is tourism to the world’s economy?
Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, with Africa leading the way. A report by Jumia highlighted that tourism on the continent saw a 5.6% growth in 2018 against a 3.9% global average, making it the second-fastest-growing region.
In addition, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that the sector provides one in ten jobs worldwide and is the third-largest export category in the global economy. It supplies necessary income to locals, much-needed foreign exchange, and contributes to national earnings.
How has Covid-19 affected tourism in Ghana
The impact of the pandemic on the industry cannot be underestimated. The UN World Tourism Organisation reported that international arrivals were down 74% worldwide through 2020 and that up to 100 million jobs were put at risk.
‘Year of Return’, Ghana’s 2019 initiative to attract foreign visitors, was considered a success. The country saw a 45% increase in visitors in 2019 as compared to 2018 and the Minister of Tourism, Barbara Oteng Gyasi, claimed that the plan had brought roughly $1.9bn into the economy. At the start of 2020, the country’s travel industry was poised to see even more growth.
“The pandemic has also provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to think creatively and find solutions to some of the obstacles that have arisen.”
But when the pandemic hit, tourist attractions and hospitality centres were forced to close, including the country’s 28 forts and castles and 10 traditional Asante buildings. The country’s tourism sector lost an estimated $171 million during the three-month partial lockdown in 2020.
The negative impact has been significant, but the pandemic has also provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to think creatively and find solutions to some of the obstacles that have arisen. ‘Encounter Ghana’, which is creating an innovative technology solution for the tourism sector to take better advantage of technology, is a good example.
Encounter Ghana: an eco-tourism business showcasing Ghanaian hospitality to the world
Founded by Kwame Adu-Appeah, Encounter creates customized experiences for outdoor enthusiasts to explore Ghana. For them, tourism is an important tool to directly improve the incomes of local communities and thus the Ghanaian economy as a whole.
Its focus on ecotourism means that sustainability is at the core of its mission. The company incorporates the principles of circular economy, hence it applies a no-trace policy that ensures its activities do not have a negative impact on the environment.
Furthermore, its ultimate goal is to promote healthy activities among Ghanaians through tourism, encouraging them to stay active and explore their country.
Solutions to COVID-19: How Encounter Ghana is tackling new challenges
Like all companies in the travel industry, Encounter had to deal with the setbacks of the pandemic. However, it highlighted a gap in the local tourism space that the company now hopes to fill: the need to digitize the travel planning process.
Currently, organizing a tourism experience in Ghana requires face-to-face interactions at various stages of the planning process. The COVID-19 regulations made these interactions difficult or impossible and highlighted the inefficiency of the system. Encounter plans to change this model by creating a one-stop portal where customers can book multiple service providers and plan their trips seamlessly.
“Encounter Ghana highlighted a gap in the local tourism space that the company now hopes to fill: the need to digitize the travel planning process.”
To do this effectively, they joined the New Economy Booster Program, developed by Impact hub in collaboration with BMZ and Lab of Tomorrow. The goal of the program was to support companies that, like Encounter Ghana, are creating a positive impact in their communities by providing them with resources, mentoring and training to help them grow and ultimately become more competitive.
Companies like these are essential for the economic recovery. Their business model is based on supporting the local economy by sponsoring local businesses such as hotels, tour guides and restaurants. As they create new ways to address new and old challenges, they ensure that they remain sustainable and contribute to the economy.
Across West Africa, countless entrepreneurs are working in innovative ways to solve some of the region’s most pressing needs. Learn more about the participants of the New Economy Booster Program and how to support them in its Dealbook.
This article is part of a series featuring impact-driven entrepreneurs from Ghana and Nigeria sparking innovation in COVID-19 affected sectors. To keep up to date with the New Economy Booster program, subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and listen to the testimonies of the participants and program managers on our YouTube channel.