Ghana

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Oil finds in Ghana, alongside gold mining, made it the world’s fastest-growing economy in 2011. It has a GDP growth rate of 13.5%, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation forecasts passenger growth in West Africa of at least 8.3% over the next two years, driven by business travellers.

Background

Ghana achieved independence back in 1957, but has only more recently entrenched its position as one of the most successful democracies in West Africa. Ghana is the world’s second-largest producer of cocoa and the country is seeing steady economic growth, as the ‘black gold’ joins the amber precious metal as a major pillar of Ghana’s thriving economy, along with newfound oil. Ghana’s extensive gold reserves have long been the country’s economic anchor, producing three million ounces per year. It’s the second-largest gold producer on the continent, although the country is working hard to diversify its economy.

Business Travel Activity

There was a mix of hotel and airline activity in 2012, with most of it taking place in the skies over Ghana, as the world continued to see its potential as a business travel destination. An example of this was the indirect benefits accrued from the April announcement that South African Airways and TAP Portugal had expanded their code-share service between Portugal and South Africa. The code-share was expanded to include Accra, with TAP operating the Lisbon – Accra route, and SAA operating the Accra – Johannesburg route. July saw some activity on the hotel front, with Kempinski Hotels announcing the development of the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City in Accra, which is due to open in April.

The hotel will mark Kempinski’s entrance into West Africa, and will feature 269 rooms and suites, restaurants and lounges, shopping facilities, and a spa. In the same month, Spanish airline Iberia, which had merged with British Airways in 2011, announced news of its first flight into Ghana from Madrid. Iberia weren’t the only airline wanting a piece of the Ghana aviation pie. August saw South African Airways announce that it had added Abidjan and Brazzaville to its network. These flights were added as an extension to SAA’s Accra flights on Tuesdays and Fridays. In addition, SAA also secured traffic rights between Accra and Abidjan, which enabled the carrier to serve customers flying between these two cities. At the other end of the flight scale, budget airline Fly540 commenced flights between Accra and Lagos in October, using a newly-acquired Embraer 170. Fly540, though, will soon be absorbed by fastjet, the new kid on the African low-cost carrier scene.

Airport

All international flights arrive at Kotoka International Airport, 12 kilometres from the centre of Accra. From Kotoka, a handful of commercial airlines serve domestic destinations. There are taxis and numerous car hire companies at the airport. “Kotoka International Airport is undergoing a facelift and major renovations, in order to accommodate the ever increasing number of passengers using this very strategic airport in West Africa,” says Aaron Munetsi, SAA Regional General Manager: Africa & Middle East – Global Sales. “Peak hours see congestion and the resultant long queues. But, I would easily rank the airport officials among the most professional on the continent.”

It seems as if Kotoka International has had to grow up quickly, as the world descends on one of Africa’s most promising business travel destinations. “It’s fairly modern and efficient, and certainly one of the best in West Africa,” says Kevin Markette, General Manager Ghana – Lufthansa German Airlines. “Processes are modern, including immigration eye and fingerprint scans. Delays do occur, though, due to power cuts, understaffing, and many flights landing around the same time. Facilities after security are limited, with only a few small coffee shops and one duty free store.”

Visas

Nationals of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), along with citizens of Kenya and Egypt, do not require a visa to visit Ghana. Citizens of Malawi, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda and Swaziland are able to receive a free visa on arrival in Ghana. All other nationalities require a visa before entry.

Connectivity

Ghana has a vibrant telecommunications sector, with six cellular phone operators and several Internet service providers. The introduction of both the Main One underground cable network and Glo One underground cable has seen marked improvement in connectivity. They both offer open access and broadband connectivity to mobile operators like Tigo, MTN and Airtel. Further to that, development is speeding up, following the introduction of wireless and 3G mobile broadband technologies such as iBurst, WiMax and HSPA, and the arrival of the two fibre links mentioned.

Hotels

Expect Accra to see even more hotel development activity in the coming years. According to Ward, the country has 11 hotels, with a total of 1,752 rooms, in its development pipeline. In the short-term, though, all eyes are on what Kempinski will unveil in Accra in 2013.

“The newest place in town is the Moevenpick, but that will be challenged for market supremacy very soon by the Kempinski,” says Ward. “Otherwise, there’s a wide range of hotels to choose from in Accra, from the beachside Labadi Beach and La Palm Royal Beach, to the Holiday Inn at the airport.” 

The Labadi Beach Hotel, a Legacy Hotels & Resorts property, appears popular with business travellers. “Two hotels stand out for me,” says Markette. “Labadi Beach Hotel and Moevenpick Ambassador. Both are very modern, efficient and friendly, but pricey.”

“I recommend the Golden Tulip, which is well positioned and has great facilities for work and leisure – it just needs to improve its Wi-Fi access,” says management consultant Adrian Ristow. “I’ve also stayed at La Badi Beach, which is also a great hotel on the coast. The others that are good are the Best Western and the Holiday Inn.”

Travel Tips

Money Visa and MasterCard are accepted in major hotels, restaurants, airlines, banks and businesses. However, be aware of the threat of fraud. Ghana’s currency is the cedi and can be exchanged at any forex bureaux and some banks. Most large commercial banks have ATMs outside, accepting Visa mostly, but also other cards.
Out & About Tipping is permitted in hotels and restaurants, as gratuity is rarely added to bills.

Health

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required. So, consult your doctor well in advance of travelling – ideally, three weeks. Malaria prophylactics are essential in Ghana, as malaria is widespread. Tap water in cities is hygienic, but bottled water is recommended.

The Experience

“For a classy lunch, head to Santoku, a five-minute drive from Accra Mall,” says Will Hide of Business Traveller UK. “It’s a new contemporary Japanese restaurant, developed by the team behind Nobu in London. Eat at the sushi bar, order from the à la carte menu in the 60-seat main restaurant, or if you’re in a hurry, simply choose a bento box to go. It’s also open in the evenings and will soon have a private members’ club on the roof. It’s closed on Sundays.”

“Accra is a busy city and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the pace of it too,” says Munetsi. “Meetings are generally taken very seriously and you must have your act together to make your visit a success.”

“Traffic congestion in Accra is at times worse than Lagos,” says Ward. “The arrival of ‘Big Oil’ has seen a boom in activity, and that means more cars, but not more roads. So, beware of getting caught downtown with only a short time to get to the airport. If you like your fish, try Captain Hooks restaurant.” “Just be ready to negotiate with taxi drivers whose first offer is normally quite high,” says Ristow.

Contacts

Websites – ghana.gov.gh; touringghana.com and ghanaweb.com.

Fct File

Capital: Accra
Population:
24.8 million
Time zone: GMT
Plugs: Two-prong square
Dialling code: +233
Currency: The Ghanaian Cedi was redenominated in 2007, and old cedi notes can now only be exchanged at the Bank of Ghana. Always exchange currencies at an authorised dealer – not on the street. Exchange rate: US$1=1.9GHS
Language: English, French and over 50 different indigenous dialects

Something to Do

A five-minute walk up 28th February Road is the Centre for National Culture, known as the Arts Centre (open 8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri, 9am-3pm Sat-Sun). It’s a good spot for souvenirs if you don’t mind running the “my friend, my friend, just come in and look” gauntlet, but it’s all done with a smile and a lack of harassment. You can buy everything from T-shirts, Kente cloth and West African masks, to wooden statues of local hero Michael Essien in his Chelsea kit. The outdoor market is less intense than the warren of alleys under cover, but whichever one you end up in, put your bargaining skills in top gear.

Air Travel

Air Burkina – air-burkina.com
Air France – airfrance.com
Arik Air – arikair.com
BA – ba.com
Delta Air Lines – delta.com
EGYPTAIR – egyptair.com
Emirates – emirates.com
Ethiopian Airlines – flyethiopian.com
Fly540 – fly540africa.com
Iberia – iberia.com
Kenya Airways – kenya-airways.com
KLM – klm.com
Lufthansa – lufthansa.com
Royal Air Maroc – royalairmaroc.com
SAA – flysaa.com
Starbow Airlines – flystarbow.com
Swiss – swiss.com
Tuifly – tuifly.com
Turkish Airlines – turkishairlines.com
Virgin – virgin-atlantic.com

Hotels
African Regent – african-regent-hotel.com
Alisa – alisahotels.com
Best Western – bestwestern.com
Fiesta Royale – fiestaroyalehotel.com
Golden Tulip – goldentulip.com
Highgate Hotel – highgatehotel.com
Holiday Inn Accra Airport – holidayinn.com
Novotel Accra City Centre – accorhotels.com
Kempinski – kempinski.com
Labadi Beach – legacyhotels.co.za
La Villa Boutique – lavillaghana.com
Mensvic Grand Hotel – mensvichotels.com
Movenpick Ambassador – moevenpick-hotels.com
Villa Monticello – villamonticello.com

Car Rental
Alamo – alamo.com
Avis – avis.co.za
Europcar – europcar.com
Hertz – hertz.com
Honk – honkcarrental.com
National Car Hire – nationalcar.co.uk
Zoom – zoomrentalcars.com

TMC

Access to Africa – access-to-africa.com
BCD Travel – bcdtravel.com
Carlson Wagonlit – carlsonwagonlit.com
Club Travel – clubcorporatetravel.co.za
HRG – hrgworldwide.com
Tourvest – tourvest.co.za

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