10 things to consider as a tourist or tourism provider in Ghana
In December 2021, Ghana was on track to welcome over 150 000 visitors in line with the “Beyond The Return: December in Gh initiative”. The initiative is the follow up to the original “Year of Return” initiative, which began in 2019 to commemorate 400 years of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia.
As a result of the Year of Return, the tourism sector in Ghana has rapidly expanded over the last three years and is playing an increasingly important role in the development of Ghana through economic growth and job creation. However, the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions posed a challenge for the tourism industry last year.
A final assessment of tourism growth in 2021 is pending. While the expansion of the tourism industry presents a great opportunity for individuals and businesses in Ghana, there are some legal considerations for both residents and non-residents to be aware of.
Here are 10 things to consider if you are a tourist or in the tourism business in Ghana.
- If you plan on capitalising on the influx of tourists, you may need a tourism enterprise licence
The tourism industry in Ghana is governed by the Tourism Act, 2011 (Act 817) which established the Ghana Tourism Authority and the Tourism Development Fund to develop and regulate tourism in Ghana.
Many citizens are using the expansion of the tourism industry as an opportunity to rent out apartments and organise food fairs catered to tourists. However, under the Tourism Act, tourism enterprises must obtain licences from the Ghana Tourism Authority. This includes accommodation providers such as hotels and guest houses and restaurants.
While the prospect of making passive income is exciting, meeting Ghana Tourism Authority regulatory requirements is not that easy. These regulatory requirements must be complied with to avoid fines or negative publicity for non-compliance. For pop-up events where it may be difficult to obtain a licence in time, it is best practice to ask Ghana Tourism Authority for guidance directly.
- Pay up or close up
Tourism businesses are subject to several taxes. These include the COVID-19 levy and the tourism levy.
The tourism levy is chargeable at 1% and is a key source of finance for the Tourism Development Fund. Individuals and entities operating in the tourism industry that fail to pay this levy face strict sanctions from the government. The Ghana Tourism Authority is currently collecting arrears from individuals and entities that have failed to pay their tourism levy and have already shut down a number of tourism businesses that have been unable to pay the arrears. Tourism businesses should ensure they stay up to date with tourism levy payments and assess their possible liability before the Ghana Tourism Authority arrives at their doorstep.
- When in Ghana, price like the Ghanaians do
It can be tempting to price in dollars and other foreign currency in order to maintain purchasing power. Under Ghanaian law however, it is not permitted to price, advertise or pay for goods and services in foreign currency without authorisation from the Bank of Ghana.
Non-compliance with this requirement can result in a fine. Businesses who do not have authorisation from the Bank of Ghana may consider having arrangements with nearby forex bureaus to allow easy exchange of currency and confirmation of daily exchange rates.
- Landlords, beware
Holiday residences are set to become lucrative but the income gained from the rental of such properties is subject to rent tax. For residential premises, this is taxed at 8% of the income received from rent.
The Ghana Revenue Authority intends to reduce rent tax avoidance through the use of the Rent Tax Digital Application. This contains the names of homeowners and their locations which will allow the Ghana Revenue Authority to identify whether a property is being rented. So, landlords who have not paid tax in the past should beware of the proposed Rent Tax Digital Application.
- Mind your Ps
The Tourism Act provides that the Ministry of Tourism must organise a forum that allows public and private individuals and entities in the tourism sector to meet to promote tourism. This is known as the Public Private Partnership Forum (“PPPF”). In 2021, the Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture inaugurated the PPPF Committee. With the PPPF Committee dedicated to driving the development of tourism, individuals and entities should see progress in the tourism sector as a result of the mandate granted by the Tourism Act.
- Extra costs for unvaccinated persons
The Ghana Health Service has mandated that all travellers arriving in Ghana who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 must be vaccinated on arrival or quarantine for seven days at their own cost.
In the past, such quarantine has taken place at government-approved hotels but further guidance on the conditions of this new quarantine requirement are pending. This is a revision of the December 2021 guidelines which stated that only fully vaccinated individuals could enter the country. Tourists must remember to pack their proof of vaccination before arriving in Ghana if they want to avoid the mandatory vaccination or quarantine, which could be quite expensive.
- No vaccine might mean no entry
The Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture announced in December 2021 that persons attending public events or going to restaurants will be required to show proof of their vaccination in order to gain entry.
Although this requirement has not been enforced, tourists should however ensure they carry their proof of vaccination to public places, in case enforcement does happen.
- COVID-19 testing has gone digital
Ghana has, as of April 2021, moved towards digital verification of COVID-19 tests. Travellers arriving in Ghana who take their pre-departure COVID-19 test must create an account at www.trustedtravel.panabios.org which will enable the verification of their tests. Only test results or certificates bearing Trusted Travel or BIOMARS codes are considered valid for travel. Passengers should also confirm that their testing facility is approved by both Trusted Travel and their airline before paying for their test.
Also in line with increased digitisation, passengers arriving in Ghana should ensure that they make the mandatory COVID-19 test payment online before arrival. The cost of the test is currently USD150 (GHS900) for non-citizens and USD50 (GHS300) for citizens.
- Nature over nightclubs? This is for you
The Tourist Sites Regulations were passed in 2019 to regulate the operation of tourist sites, which include national parks, beaches and waterfalls.
In line with the spirit of the regulations, Ghana Tourism Authority has been training operators of such sites in order to increase preservation and improve the efficiency of the running of these sites. This means incoming tourists should expect better service and a better experience.
- Get your Ghana Card
On 13 October 2021, Ghana was officially accepted as the 79th participant of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (“ICAO”) Public Key Directory.
The government of Ghana has estimated that by the end of the first quarter of 2022, the Ghana Card will be recognised globally as an electronic passport and can be read and verified in all ICAO compliant borders.
For now, this is not set in stone but incoming non-resident Ghanaian citizens should take the opportunity to apply for their Ghana Cards as it could mean visa-free travel to Ghana in the near future. Additionally, effective 1 July 2022, the Ghana Card will be the only acceptable means of identification at banks and financial institutions which means if you want to make your stay in Ghana more permanent, it’s a good idea to get one.
Head of ENSafrica | Ghana
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