What the season meant for local business owners…
Like many of my fellow ‘diasporans’, I’ve just returned from an amazing Christmas/ New Years in Ghana and the ‘holiday blues’ are real. December 2018 seemed to solidify Ghana as THE destination to be during the holidays. “Black Hollywood” landed in Accra for the Full Circle Festival with the likes of Naomi Campbell, Boris Kodjo, Bozoma St. John and Diggy Simmons to name a few were in attendance marking Ghana’s commitment to diaspora engagement.
Brunches, day parties, cultural experiences, concerts, festivals and of course club nights meant Accra was not short of #enjoyment and a variety of things to do. 2019 is set to be even bigger as President Nana Akufo-Addo has declared this year, THE YEAR OF RETURN for the entire African diaspora community to mark 400 years since the start of the transatlantic slave trade. This will include activities spread across the year. CNN has also just listed Ghana as #4 on its top places to visit in 2019 list.
With all eyes on Ghana then, there is a need to ensure effective regulation, maintenance and continuous improvement of its tourism industry. In her piece ‘The year Ghana became the Miami of West Africa”, Bridget Boakye poses some very important concerns of which many share:
“What is our government doing to capitalize on this moment?”
“Where can there be synergies with other development projects beyond its Year Of Return initiative?”
Finally, what is the government doing to address infrastructural challenges (traffic, waste management, etc) that will impede on the future success of December in Ghana as the volume of people moving into the country increases?
Whilst in Accra, I spoke to 3 business owners, 2 of whom are located in Accra’s prime tourist areas and the other capitalising on the boost of events and festivities in the city, to hear how the festive season has impacted business and how things could be developed to meet future demand.
Ozzie’s Beach Palace – South La
Ozzie’s Beach Palace officially opened on January 26th 2018 after owner Ozzie permanently returned to Ghana 2 years ago from Australia. He first migrated to Australia back in 1987, “I love Australia but I always thought of it as someone else’s. This built the desire to want to come back.” Ozzie recalls. Before starting construction on his beach place in April 2017 Ozzie had dabbled in a few other business ventures including property and equipment hire but with a background in hospitality (he works in the kitchen, waits tables and manages his guest house) Ozzie’s Beach Palace seemed the natural venture to ultimately focus on.
“First thing I learned is that business is up and down here in Ghana as the economy is not stable, prices are always fluctuating. It was scary because it wasn’t what I was used to.”
This part of Labadi beach was once a rubbish dump but it now hosts Sandbox Beach Club next door, Ozzie’s Beach Palace and a third development opening soon, “I like development so starting from nothing here really excited me.” As Ozzie’s first December, business has been good, “Christmas is a festive season, everyone is in a good mood so business has been great. I am still yet to finish as there is a lot more I want to add to this place like artwork and tiling. I do very limited marketing and don’t advertise as I believe in focusing on the grassroots – relying on people’s good experiences to spread the word that way I retain my customers for a long time.”
Ozzie identifies retaining skilled staff as a significant challenge which is only exacerbated at this time of year. “I haven’t quite put a finger on why I am having this challenge as I pay the standard rate. It could be because what I’m doing isn’t typical – I’m not doing the nightclub thing and using the normal tricks used to attract customers. And typically Ghanaians buy into trends so when they see something different they think its wrong but we can’t all be the same. People come in abundance wanting work but they come and go. With something like what I am trying to build I would like to create sustainable partnerships so I could hand over skills and have people I can trust.”
On government support for businesses like his Ozzie notes, “Other than me paying my dues to them, the government does nothing for us. I think support is needed in terms of training. As much as I will provide training on the job I need staff to come with a certain standard to be effective to my business and customer service in general.”
Ozzie also suggests that there is a need for returnees visiting Ghana to play a part in boosting Ghana’s tourism industry…
“Expats and travellers like to consume a lot of things that are packaged and imported. They’re often so desperate to come to Africa to reconnect but once they do they become disgusted by some of the things they see. There is a need for
Azaree Taste Bar is a mobile bar service catering to weddings, parties and corporate events. Founded by Tema based Maame Fosuah, Azaree Taste Bar began as a hobby, “I started in October 2017 but I had already been making and selling drinks at uni alongside a friend who’d sell pancakes and waffles. ” It was only after accompanying a friend at a food fair and selling her drinks there did Maame realise its potential as a business, “Not only did I realise how much I missed making drinks but we ended up making a lot of money so it was the push I needed to get started.”
Azaree Taste Bar takes bookings for a wide range of events offering bespoke packages “It’s a really positive environment to work in especially in this festive period as everybody is happy and your drinks are making them happier. Plus I love making cocktails and thinking of new recipes and testing them out. I especially love sourcing the ingredients which are fresh fruits from the market and seeing how the women there really benefit from what I am doing and they’re so grateful that I’m buying so much from them. The thought of how I’m helping them really keeps me going.”
The festive period has expectantly been great for business given the boost of events, “December has been crazy for business. There are so many parties and events going on so I was having 2-3 events a weekend. A lot of people coming home for the holidays means that their families and friends save their festivities till December. There are also more events popping up in Ghana like food fairs and festivals so a bar service like Azaree is needed to complement this.”
This demand does bring its challenges for the small mobile businesses though, “There are a lot of last minute bookings at this time of year so often people will book you a day or two before the event which can create a
Maame anticipates the boost in tourism to have a huge impact on business, “After the
On just how the government could capitalize on this boost and support businesses like hers Maame says “Its a difficult one. I can’t speak for everyone but most of us started our businesses because of the economic situation in Ghana. We realised that it would be better to work on our own. So I think the last place I’d be looking for support would be the government. I saw the president hosting and taking pictures with the visitors and celebrities that came to Ghana over Christmas so I think that alone created an image of a welcoming and friendly country that can only be positive for tourism”
Tea Baa – Osu
In 2019 Tea Baa will enter its 3rd year of business after officially opening on March 17, 2016. If you love neo-soul and good food Tea Baa is for you, “I started Tea Baa because there was a need for a unique space where people could gather and be inspired.” says founder Dedo Azu. Located in Osu one of Accra’s hotspots Tea Baa is already popular with tourists, especially amongst the diaspora so the impact of the festive period has been felt, “Christmas is always a good time in Ghana and it’s an opportunity to get a lot of visitors to know what we love and enjoy in Accra. People come to Ghana around Christmas to spend time with friends and family, visit all the new cool spots in town and spend money. This has been great for Tea baa because not only do we get a boost in sales, people take tons of photos which get shared on social media which in turn gives us good publicity, support and patronage.”
There are a few challenges for a restaurant as small as Tea Baa‘s though, “one of them is the overwhelming crowds that we have to cater for at this time of the year. Everybody wants to experience the vibe but unfortunately, sometimes we are unable to handle it all. Because of the large crowds, suppliers find it difficult to keep up with the large orders and sometimes due to this, we are unable to render the best of our services, as we are known for.” At the same time, the Christmas blues are also felt by the business, “after the visitors leave after Christmas, business becomes a bit slow. This causes panic because they leave a void that takes time to fill. I guess you can call it withdrawal symptoms.”
However, Dedo remains optimistic about the impact the anticipated boost in tourism will have on business “Businesses will thrive because of the financial boost that comes with tourism. Businesses will be able to gather the much-needed cash to expand and grow. Also, now with social media, businesses have the opportunity to be featured in photos and articles that will expose them to the whole world. I believe somebody always needs your service, product or whatever, they just need to find you. And people are hungry for content and to show off new finds so yes, tourism will have a positive impact on our businesses.”
As mentioned, in the last 2 years, Tea Baa has become a firm tourist favourite and therefore it would be in the Tourism Office’s interest that businesses like it continue to thrive “The government can support us by plugging us into publications and lists of things to do and see in Ghana. Also, boosting our sector as it has gained traction over time can also help increase revenue at large. I believe if this sector is well dealt with we become the next Miami in West Africa annually (globally known by all). Reduction of tariffs and commodities can also help us give customers and the general public the best prices to everything.”
Tea Baa are moving to a bigger + better location in Labone and will reopen in March!
What impact do you think the boost in tourism could have on business? How do you think businesses could be supported? Where are your top places to visit in Accra? Comment below!