By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) out-doored tourism promotion activities dubbed: “December in GH Events” to promote the country’s tourism sector during this December.
According to the GTA, the aim of the authority was to create memorable experiences through entertainment, nightlife and ultimately promote tourism with the ‘December in GH Events’, which has been launched as a new tourism product by the Authority to attract tourists to Ghana, which is increasingly becoming the destination for Christmas and New Year celebrations.
With the success of ‘Year of Return’ and the devastating effect of COVID-19, this initiative was highly expected from GTA but there’s something about this move that raise eyebrows.
The announcement that patrons would be required to show proof of vaccination in order to participate or be admitted to events sanctioned by the Ghana Tourism Authority and the ‘Beyond the Return’ Secretariat as part of ‘December In GH’ needs some attention and analysis.
Participants are expected to flash their COVID-19 vaccination cards to gain entry into event venues. This was made known by the CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority, Akwasi Agyeman, who said the new requirement is an addition to existing protocols which are geared towards ensuring the health safety of event organizers and patrons as COVID-19 lingers on.
Only Events Sanctioned By GTA?
The first issue that tickles my fancy is the directive that says, the exhibition of the vaccination cards would be allowed only at events sanctioned by the GTA.
The point is; COVID prevails at all events – it is not a respecter of events, so, whether the event is sanctioned by the Authority or not, the pandemic would still linger.
Under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, the GTA is responsible for the regulation of tourism in Ghana by marketing, promoting, licensing, classifying, researching and developing tourism facilities and services in the country.
Every event ground that accommodates even one tourist ought to be regulated by the Authority, so, essentially, almost every event must be sanctioned. They don’t need to go through a specialized regimen to get sanctioned.
Also, in December, tourists are bound to attend events that would definitely not be listed in the ‘December in GH’ events, so it is critical that such events also go under the scrutiny of GTA.
The call for the showcase of proof of vaccination at events in the month of December is confounding.
There’s no record to depict that the pandemic would be intense in December, therefore, vaccination cards would become a necessity. COVID is still here and lingering at events; it is not waiting patiently for the month of December to strike.
The President of Ghana eased restrictions to events months ago and since then, patrons have been thronging to events, both high profile and low profile. In the midst of these events, COVID has been prevalent.
The directive of flashing vaccination cards should have be propounded when the GTA realized that quite a number of people have vaccinated and offer some proof that requirement of a vaccination card can reduce the spread of the virus.
It is also germane to have such a directive start now, in order to normalize the instruction to avoid any form of confusion among patrons, event organizers and GTA come December.
How About Foreign Vaccination Cards?
Clearly, this ‘December in GH’ events are targeted at the tourists and GTA actually has an estimate of the numbers it expects in Ghana in December. According to the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, Ghana expects 150,000 tourists in the country from now till December.
Interestingly, the directive on proof of vaccination at events was not specific. Does it apply to only Ghanaian revelers or international guests? If it is applicable to these estimated 150,000 people, what mechanisms have the GTA put in place to ensure that the cards that would be presented are authentic?
How are they prepared to handle a seeming level of discrimination that may transpire at these event grounds when it comes to the showcase of vaccination cards between locals, tourists and event handlers?
Education & Monitoring
The success of ‘Year of Return’ and the revenue it is said to have generated puts some pressure on the GTA to improve upon the numbers with ‘Beyond the Return’ and ‘December in GH’ projects respectively.
In view of this, the Authority cannot issue such a directive and go to sleep. With vaccination becoming such a topical issue across the world, it is imperative that the organization invests in educating event handlers, event houses and the general public on this directive.
Failure to embark on an educational exercise would result in lots of confusion at events grounds, an outcome that could derail participation of these ‘December in GH’ events, which would hamper estimated economic gains.
Beyond education, what mechanisms are the GTA putting in place to ensure effective implementation, monitoring and enforcement of this directive?
Any Other Alternative?
Vaccination against the virus is important but could there be other alternative (s) to ensure that unvaccinated people do not lose out on these events?
In the US, some destinations, cruise lines and venues require patrons to provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19, however, provisions are also made for those who have not taken the jab. Those unvaccinated are allowed to such venues but are instructed to wear a mask, practice social distancing and depending on the venue, could be assigned to a section specific to their vaccination status.