Ghana’s hospitality and tourism industry Squatters threaten progress at major hotel site
As the country strives for economic growth, Ghana’s governments have made strenuous efforts to get the hospitality industry – tourism – to contribute more to the national kitty over the years.
At the same time, the governments have sought to add greater meaning to the slogan, “Ghana, Gateway to West Africa” by playing host to various international programmes, the latest being the 12th UNCTAD International Conference in Accra, after hosting Africa’s biggest soccer fiesta – the 26th MTN Cup of Nations 2008, which was won by Egypt.
One major factor that seems to be militating against efforts at boosting the tourism and hospitality industry in Ghana is the dearth of suitable accommodation, especially those in the 4 and 5 star categories.
According to the latest figures, Ghana is nowhere near meeting its accommodation requirements for the upscale market. This is quite disappointing for a country that is positioning itself to be a major force to reckon with in West Africa. And with the recent discovery of oil in commercial quantities on the country’s west coast, there is the urgent need for major investment in this sector.
Even in the capital, Accra, the list of up-market hotels is not that long: La Palm, Golden Tulip, Labadi Beach, Novotel, Fiesta Royal, African Regency Hotel and a few others. A majority of the hotels springing up are either 2 or 3 star, ill-equipped for the conferences and facilities needed to oil the wheels of commerce.
Governments, realising the embarrassing lack of accommodation have been forced in the past to virtually construct new buildings from scratch, as it did for the African Union Conference in July 2006. This clearly is not sustainable.
It therefore comes as a major shock to read that the construction of a new five-star international hotel complex, earmarked for the former Accra Race Course, in the heart of the capital city, has been stalled by the refusal of squatters to quit the site.
The 250-room hotel, which is to be managed by a leading international hotels group, Kempinski Hotels, at the cost of over $50 million with funds from the Africa Development Bank and the ABSA Bank of South Africa, is expected to provide jobs for more than 700 people.
However, the refusal of the squatters - many of whom are worn out jockeys with worn out horses – to quit the site after several notices, has delayed the project unnecessarily.
Information available indicates that despite the fact that contractors are prepared to move to the site and the investors have already built a modern-state-of-the-art race course at the cost of $2million at “Malejor” around East Legon, to relocate the Accra Race Course, the squatters are determined not to move.
Kempinski announced plans to construct the 250-room Kempinski Gold Coast City Hotel, early this year. This forms part of the Gold City project being undertaken by Cascade Development Company Limited at the old Accra Race Course, behind the Accra International Conference Centre. With a hotel in Ghana, Kempinski will be adding another hotel to the more than 55 luxury properties it owns in some of the world’s most beautiful cities.
Well known and established names such as the Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin, the Palace Kempinski in Istanbul, the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains in St. Moritz and the Kempinski Grand Hotel in Heiligendamm are part of the international growing group.
The Group also has a presence in South America, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, with luxurious properties in cities such as Budapest, London, St Moritz, the Dead Sea, Berlin, Beijing and Abu Dhabi. Evidently, the group has the experience and the wherewithal to manage a first class hotel in Accra.
Latest information available indicates that other investors, who have been monitoring the Kempinski saga, are re-evaluating their agreements, with the view to backing out if they cannot be guaranteed access to the sites they need for the construction of their businesses.
The government must as a matter of urgency, therefore, step in to limit the losses to the sponsors of this project and more importantly, re-instil the confidence the international community has in Ghana.