COVID-19: How Ghana’s Hotels Survived the Pandemic
Posted on August 18, 2020
The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken the entire world leaving scientists in a desperate search for a cure. But, as the fight to end this ravaging pandemic continues unabated, governments are desperately instituting measures to fight the contagion in their region. One such way was the decision to shut down hotels and close the country’s borders. This decision, though beneficial, has had a devastating implication for the travel ecosystem and the country’s tourism sector.
The implications for corporate profits have been massive and despite business activities gradually picking up in the country’s commercial hub after the government relaxed the COVID-19 lockdowns restrictions the hospitality industry is still recouping the operational and financial impact for their business.
Dr Edward Ackah-Nyamike is the owner of Bernako Lodge, a hotel facility in the country’s capital Accra. He has been running the facility for over 20 years.
His business had been enjoying some good patronage until the Covid-19 pandemic set in.
He still recalls the days when the pandemic first hit the country, and lockdown restrictions were announced. Dr Ackah said he never envisaged the impact COVID -19 could have on the provision of accommodation for clients until people started cancelling reservations and in March when he and a few of his colleagues had to shut down their facilities.
“You know we started hearing about Covid-19 from December 2019 and then the buildup was from January February, at which point it was still more like foreign news, until March when we got the first case’’ he said
He continued “right from February that is where we started noticing the troubles in patronage because then people started cancelling reservations and then into March when social distancing and the closure of the borders came in, that is where patronage dropped completely”
According to Dr. Ackah-Nyamike, the restrictions cut down over 50 per cent of all inflows in the hospitality industry at the beginning of the pandemic and went down to zero during the restrictions.
Dr Ackah-Nyamike knows this because he doubles as the President of the Ghana Hotels Association.
Government has eased the restrictions on movement and despite fighting to put the economy back on track, the hospitality industry continues to plunge into further pits.
He narrates how he still had to pay the salaries of workers for February and March even when inflows were low until later in March when he decided to lay off some staff.
He also shared the experiences of some of his colleagues who had contracted loans and are living on tenterhooks.
Aggravating the issue was the tussle with suppliers and the ability to pay for rent in the case of those who have rented apartments to run their business.
“you can imagine that your rent is due and it falls within the COVID -19 between March, April and May”
But that was not all, “don’t forget that we have statutory regulatory fees that we pay; business or no business, you have to pay your environmental protection agency fee, food and drugs authority fee, property rate, and you still have to pay the SSNIT contributions of staff even though you could not pay them all the salaries” he said.
The government introduced a 600 million Ghana cedis stimulus package to help cushion businesses hard hit by the pandemic but five months into the pandemic and two months into the operations of that fund, no member of the hotels association has been able to benefit from the package.
The Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has indicated at one of the ministry’s weekly press briefings that the government has gathered data on the impact the pandemic.
And so, it is surprising that the alleviation package will elude one of the entities whose members have suffered devastating impacts of Covid-19; the Ghana hotels Association.
But, the entity which is spearheading the disbursement of the stimulus package, the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) said the members are asking for bigger amounts and the entity may have to do further analysis to be able to cover them.
“We’re going in phases and so when the phase arrives, and we doing analysis and working on theirs we will give them the mandate, because a lot of them are asking for bigger amounts, so we have to do a more detailed analysis than just giving out the funds.” Executive Director of the NBSSI, Mrs Kosi Yankey Ayeh said.
The situation is already having a rippling effect on the economy, the government is recording shortfalls in domestic taxes as the travel, tourism and hospitality industry which is estimated to provide direct jobs to some 250,000 people in the country cut down on staff drastically.
Dr Ackah-Nyamike, however, wants government to initiate measures that will boost domestic tourism to help locals travel across the region to see historical sites and patronize hotel facilities.
By Daniel Nii Lartey