Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo has been called ambitious by many, and it is perhaps easy to see why. Upon taking office back in 2017 he aspired to make Ghana a regional and international aviation hub. Since then the progress could be seen with a naked eye: Airports Council International has ranked the Kotoka International Airport in Accra number one in 2019 among airports receiving between 2 and 5 million passengers, also distinguishing its high performance with the “Airport Service Quality Award”. Why has the President paid so much attention to this industry and what to become of it now, in the COVID-19 era?
The bigger picture
The National Tourism Development Plan might hold some answers. According to it, the country aims to welcome 8 million tourists per year by 2027 – quite an impressive number by any account – contributing an additional $8bn to the economy. The Year of Return campaign, which has attracted scores of African-Americans including some celebrities, was launched to pursue the same goal and has reportedly done its job well: Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, the country’s minister of tourism, arts and culture, has stated that it had boosted the local economy by $2bn. Such an influx of incoming travelers would have to be serviced by a substantially upgraded aviation infrastructure, hence, the initial hefty investment of $275m into the Kotoka International Airport.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly disturbed this ambitious plan. With multiple travel restrictions imposed worldwide and airlines practically seizing commercial operations, the industry is set to bear losses on unprecedented scale. While back in mid-March, Simon Allotey, the director-general of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, has estimated a 20% drop in revenue, the swift spread of the pandemic around the globe renders such calculations overly optimistic with an exceedingly high level of certainty. Just as professionals in the neighboring hospitality sector, the country’s 20 aviation operators must prepare to amend their expectations, rethink business strategy and, regrettably, lay off staff until the better times. In a word – adaptation to a current dystopian version of the no-travel world brought about by the novel coronavirus should already be underway.