The Year of Return (YoR) programmes have made a significant impact on tourism arrivals from Ghana’s target source markets since its launch last year.
Data from the YoR Secretariat in Accra indicate that the first nine months of 2019 recorded 80,862 more arrivals from the United States of America (USA), Britain (UK) and other key target nations than the figure recorded the previous year.
The figures show that in-bound airport arrivals from the USA increased by 26 per cent (17,455) and the UK by 24 per cent (9,812).
“Total airport arrivals have increased by 45 per cent (237,088), compared to last year,” an official at the secretariat said.
It explained that the picture revealed “a steady growth, peaking in the key event months of July and August at 763,545, growth of 18 per cent”.
The source said although not all the 80,862 passengers could be classified as tourists, the YoR impact was undoubtable, given that “there has been a surge of interest in Ghana among Diasporan Africans in the UK and the USA since the programme got underway”.
“Suddenly, every person of colour cannot wait to visit Ghana. This is unprecedented in many decades,” the source said.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo launched the YoR in Washington, DC, USA, in September last year.
It marks 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in North America.
The launch was preceded by a television (TV) documentary titled: ‘CNN and Be Ghana’, aired throughout the world in August 2018 and viewed by 5,416,000 people in one month.
Towards the end of last year, the international television news network, describing Ghana as “West Africa’s poster nation for economic success and political stability”, endorsed the YoR programme and recommended the country as one of the 19 “places to visit” worldwide in 2019.
A subsequent aggressive marketing campaign by the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) included a series of events, including a Kente Party Festival in Accra by popular hip-pop musician, Fuse ODJ, who brought with him many second generation Ghanaians from the UK.
Since then, there has been a steady stream of arrivals, both in groups and individually.
The YoR Secretariat has projected the busiest envisaged month to be December this year, during which it was confident of reaching the targeted 1.1 million arrivals for the year.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GTA, Mr Akwasi Agyemang, said: “We’ve seen some high-profile visitations, such as the Congressional Black Caucus, led by the US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi; Bishop T. D. Jakes, an influential African-American preacher and motivational speaker; Kofi Kingston, the Ghanaian who features in the WWE TV wrestling sport, and A. J. Johnson, the American actress who came to Ghana for the first time in December last year and repeated her visit four times in the course of this year.
Also in the same month, actor Boris Kodjoe, born in Austria but of German and Ghanaian descent, came to Ghana with 110 of the most influential members of the African Diaspora, including supermodel Naomi Campbell, actor Idris Elba, TV sports presenter Mike Hill and author Luvvie Ajayi, for the Full Circle Festival.
“We’ve had almost all the international news outlets talking about Ghana. The BBC did a feature; CNN has done one, Al Jazeera has also come up with a documentary and Vogue Magazine put out a special edition on Ghana,” Mr Agyemang said.
Another benefit from the YoR programme, he said, was the exposure of the country to Diasporan Africans as a possible investment destination.