Ghana has been rated fourth among 19 interesting tourism destinations around the world. The country has the ability to host various types of tourism activities. These include heritage, leisure, ecotourism and festivals, as well as conference and business tourism, beach resorts and city tourism.
Among the top contributors of foreign exchange to the economy, tourism contributed 4.9% of Ghana's GDP in 2018. Ghana is investing in strategies to attract more visitors. These include the development of the Marine Drive project and the refurbishment of other existing sites.
Such strategies will take on extra importance in the light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism worldwide.
One of the Ghanaian attractions is Elmina, a coastal town with a strong link to the country's colonial past. The town recorded over 100,000 international visitors in 2018.
The major tourist attraction is the 536-year-old Portuguese castle, built in 1482. The castle is a World Heritage site.
Important as Elmina is to Ghana's tourism industry, there has been no empirical research on the city-specific factors that influence international tourists' satisfaction. These are factors like the travel experience, the facilities, services and prices. The research I am aware of relates to international tourists' satisfaction with Ghanaian food.
What the research uncovered
I conducted research to examine the specific tour services that influence international tourist satisfaction in Elmina. I also wanted to understand how tourists' satisfaction would influence their intention to purchase the same tour again.
In the study, 432 foreign tourists were interviewed on sites within and outside the Elmina castle. Most of them (73.3%) were male and 35.7% were aged between 45 and 54; 60% were repeat visitors and 30.6% were from the US. Half of the tourists (50.3%) had booked resort accommodation.
The study showed that specific tour services - namely community interaction, tour guide performance, transport, food and souvenir shopping - positively influenced international tourist satisfaction in Elmina. And this satisfaction had a positive bearing on the intention to revisit Elmina.
Why is the research important?
In 2017, the total contribution of the tourism sector to Ghana's GPD amounted to almost US$3 billion. Consequently, this study is of interest to Ghana because tourism has become the fourth highest income earner for the country after gold, cocoa and oil.
Secondly, the World Tourism Organisation has indicated that city tourism is one of the fastest-growing aspects of tourism. It projects an increase in the number of international arrivals worldwide of 1.8 billion tourists by the year 2030. Ghana has not fully tapped into this multibillion-dollar potential yet.
In the past five years, Elmina has seen growth in the number of domestic and international tourists. The cause of this increase has not been established. The government of Ghana and other stakeholders perceive tourism to be important in Elmina, yet there is no evidence to support the belief that international tourism satisfaction in the community is significant in creating opportunities to develop the community.
Discussion of key components of research
The negative result obtained for accommodation on tourists' satisfaction might be related to the kind of accommodation facilities and quality of services tourists received compared to what they expected. Accommodation and service delivery as a component of the core services should meet the basic needs of the tourists. This should send a signal to marketers and destination practitioners to pay attention to this core service.
Souvenir shopping stood out among the identified tour services. A number of reasons might account for this. First, souvenirs play a very important role in tourism. They evoke memories of the people, place and events and serve as gifts.
Again, souvenirs provide a source of satisfaction and help shape tourists' experiences. In Ghana, souvenirs are typically handcrafted by artisans and craftsmen with quality local materials. They are small in size, attractive and affordable.
Added to this a more interactive community within a destination city is more likely to create a warm, hospitable environment needed for tourists' experience. Elmina is one such place.
Finally, the tourists appreciated tour guide performance at the castle and the transport system in Elmina, making it one of safest destinations within the country where tourists can have memorable tour.
In summary, research into factors that influence international tourism satisfaction and their behavioural intentions, like I studied in Elmina, is a neglected area in tourism literature on the continent. I recommend aligning the identified factors that influence international tourism satisfaction to the current tourism activities and policies of state and local authorities in Elmina.
Several practical steps could be taken. For example, government and city officials should think of deploying modern strategies of sustaining best city tourism's practices. This could be done by building capacity of the city officials, town developers and businesses, among others, to find innovative and standard ways of maintaining quality of public services (accommodation, transport, recreational facilities, businesses and communication).
My research points to the fact that the local people in Elmina should be ready to build positive images of the city that would stick in the minds of tourists to attract future tourists.