Fear of the situation in Bawku has led to tourists, travellers, event organisers, non-governmental indoor executive retreats and other visitors coming to any part of the Upper East region cancelling their bookings to the hospitality industry, especially for conferences, lodging and entertainment events.
Most of these cancellations of booking are usually in Bolgatanga, the capital of the Upper East region far from the conflict zone which is about 51 miles from Bawku and thus affecting businesses in the hospitality industry.
The Upper East region has a total number of 172 hospitality units including hotels, guest houses, restaurants, travel and tour, entertainment facilities and other establishments. Out of the 172 units, 162 are hotels and about 70% of the hotels in the region are in Bolgatanga.
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Due to effects of the wrong impressions about the insecurity in Bawku, the hospitality sector especially those in the capital town of Bolgatanga are losing clients and this situation is likely to affect jobs and the value chain in the tourism sector. The local economy in the Upper East region too will indirectly be affected.
Aside the hospitality industry being affected by the negative extension of the Bawku conflict by people outside the Upper East region, other areas of the economy like mining investment and intra-trade activities are also being affected because investors have been ‘fed’ with fears of insecurity of the Bawku conflict.
International tourists and foreign businessmen who have scheduled to travel to the Upper East region, Bolgatanga to be precise make a last stop in Accra after being told of the Bawku conflict by persons who do not understand the geographical and topography of the area for that matter, turning away these investors and tourists.
This situation is directly reducing patronage at the various tourist attraction centres due to the high number of international tourists and other tourist outside the region coming in to these heritage sites and cultural centres.
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A typical example of an hospitality establishment which is currently affected by booking cancellations is the Akayate hotel in Bolgatanga which is one of the high standard hotels in the Upper East region with high number of clients. A visit to the hotel reveals how the situation is affecting them with low morale among the workers due to massive cancellation of bookings of reserved rooms and social events which has compiled debts as a result of the low patronage.
The Communication officer of the hotel, Emmanuel Kye-ebo reiterated the need for Ghanaians especially those living outside the Upper East region to desist from spreading falsehood about the conflict situation in Bawku and trying to include every part of the region in the conflict.
“Bolgatanga is very peaceful, very peaceful people made up of the ethnic people basically the Grune speaking people and some other connected tribes like the Talensis and the Nabdams. It is a very peaceful place where we are striving with economic and social activities. The social life of the people of Bolgatanga is so much inspiring. We have this gold mines coming up in the Bolgatanga area and if there is any conflict around, I dont think anyone will invest billions of dollars to go mining and same thing with the hospitality industry,” he said.
“So I am just encouraging people all over Ghana and all over the world that, Upper East region for that matter Bolgatanga which is very peaceful far away from Bawku and the conflict does not have any impact on our economic and social life,” he added.
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The Upper East regional Director of Ghana Tourism Authority, Wisdom Ahadzi, in an exclusive interview in Bolgatanga confirmed the erroneous impression that the entire Upper East region is not safe just because of Bawku chieftaincy conflict.
“Bawku is far miles away from Bolgatanga that is about Fifty one miles but mistakenly most of the people think the northern part is just a one unit or just a one community so when they say Bawku conflict, most people think is everywhere but that is an erroneous impression and so it is affecting businesses. Businesses are being cancelled, people booked for conferences, NGOs booked for conferences but they are cancelling.
“It happened to me personally, I happened to be part of a committee that is supposed to be inaugurated by foreigners but they got to Accra and were told that the north is fighting so they should not come and as it is, we dont know when it will take place. So this is to tell you that this is really affecting tourism big time and it is not the best,” he fumed.
Mr. Wisdom Ahadzi therefore urged residents and the general public especially the media to help educate people on the peaceful nature of the Upper East region irrespective of what is happening in Bawku and that the area is peaceful for tourism and any other economic activity.
The Upper East region is well known to be one of the very best tourist areas in Ghana and Bolgatanga strategically is also noted for having the best hospitality establishment and cultural heritage.
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By Mohammed Rabiu Tanko|TV3|Onuaonline.com