The continuous closure of Ghana’s borders as part of measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 is still taking its toll on some hotels in the country.
Despite the easing of some COVID-19 induced restrictions on social gathering, some businesses in the hospitality sector in the country say they are still recording low patronage.
The COVID-19 pandemic has grounded many businesses globally and forced others to run at half capacity with millions of people rendered jobless.
The devastation to economic activities is without boundaries as almost every sector of the economy across the world has taken a hit.
One of the hardest-hit sectors is the tourism and hospitality sector.
In Ghana, the sector is projected to create about a million jobs while contributing about 6.2 percent to Ghana’s GDP.
Most of the income realised from the sector mainly comes from foreigners who visit the country.
However, the sector has experienced a significant drop in demand and a surge in job losses.
On May 31, 2020, President Nana Akufo-Addo announced the gradual easing of the ban on public gatherings which had been in place since March 2020.
Per the directives, hotels could accommodate conferences, parties, wedding receptions and other corporate meetings with a maximum of one hundred people.
This is, however, subject to the strict adherence to all the safety protocols like keeping a safe distance of metres, washing of hands with soap under running water, use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and the mandatory wearing of nose masks.
But three months into the announcement, Citi Business News can report that not much activity is taking place at most hotels within the country.
Upon arrival at the Oak Plaza Hotel, a Citi Business News team was greeted with a virtually empty car park.
The busy swimming pool area was also empty.
In an interview with Citi Business News, Rooms Division Manager for Oak Plaza, Daniel Dadson said nothing has changed in connection with business at the hotel.
“Generally, we see movement but it isn’t as it used to be. There hasn’t been any significant change, especially since some restrictions were eased. The closure of the borders is a key factor. Domestically, people hardly come to purchase rooms or even eat at the restaurant,” he said.
The situation was not so different at the Kempinski Hotel.
The General Manager of the hotel, Manish Nambiar, also stated that business has reduced drastically since countries started closing their borders due to COVID-19.
“The closure of the airport has greatly affected us. We have taken a big hit in terms of the number of people who visit our rooms and the bar. The occupancy rate has decreased from 80% to single-digit numbers,” he said.
But for Robert Mensah, General Manager Eusbett Hotel in Sunyani, business has been gradually picking up after the easing of the restriction.
“We did not close down. We considered our staff and our suppliers and decided to stay in business and break even that is, we do not make profits but at least we try to stay afloat. And it as proven to be worthwhile,” he said.
However, the situation was different at the African Regent Hotel.
Speaking to Citi Business News, Sales and Marketing Manager, Marian Darkwah, stated that the hotel was closed for renovation.
“The reason we are closed at the moment is because of our renovation. But initially, we closed down because of COVID and the fact that guests were not coming in as usual. So sometime in March, we decided to take advantage of the situation and renovate the place,” she noted.
The situation was the same at the Fiesta Royale Hotel but at the time of Citi Business News’ visit, there were no managers to speak on record.
It will be recalled that, President Akufo-Addo during his 15th address to the nation on Sunday, stated that the Ministry of Aviation, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and the Ghana Airports Co. Ltd., had been working, with the Ministry of Health and its agencies, to ascertain the country’s readiness to reopen the country’s air border to international flights.
He stated that the outcome of that exercise would determine whether the country’s air border could be reopened by the 1st of September.
“I know many still ask when our borders, especially our international airport, Kotoka International Airport, will be open. Under my instructions, the Ministry of Aviation, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and the Ghana Airports Co. Ltd., have been working, with the Ministry of Health and its agencies, to ascertain our readiness to reopen our airport. I want to ensure that we are in a position to test every single passenger that arrives in the country to avoid the spread of the virus. The outcome of that exercise will show us the way, and determine when we can reopen our border by air. I am hoping that, by God’s grace, we will be ready to do so by 1st September,” President Akufo-Addo said.
Following this announcement, there appears to be hope for the hotels as they are putting measures in place to receive guests.