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Ashanti Region: The Cultural hub of Ghana needs MICE; not just a theatre

 Ashanti Region: The Cultural hub of Ghana needs MICE; not just a theatre

Emmanuel Jewel Peprah Mensah

Ashanti Region is the most densely-populated region in Ghana. Most significantly, it is also the cultural heartbeat of Ghana. The region’s capital is Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana.

Among the 16 Administrative Regions in Ghana, the region is popular for its wealth in culture, tradition and commerciality. It boasts of several breathtaking tourism attraction destinations. Some include: Kumasi Cultural Centre (biggest in Sub-Saharan Africa), Bonwire Kente Weaving Village (the origin of Kente fabric), Ntonso Adinkra Village, Lake Bosumtwi, Rattray Park-Kumasi City, Bomfobiri wildlife sanctuary, Atwia Rock Formation, Owabi Wildlife Sanctuary, Suame Magazine (Africa’s largest artisanal engineering enclave), Kejetia Market (West Africa’s biggest open-air market), Manhyia Palace (the seat of the Overlord of Asante Kingdom), among others.

In spite of these accolades, the region is fundamentally poor in tourism and events related infrastructure to market the Region for local and international programs. Hence, the immediate call on Government and city authorities for MICE to commercially grow the region.

Although MICE sounds interesting, it’s nothing but business tourism. The acronym, MICE stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions. MICE is a definition for the events industry. It has a robust and inseparable relationship of the tourism and events industry. Dating back to 1841, the term was sloganeered and commercialized by Thomas Cook. Since then, MICE has grown considerably.

Available statistics published by Allied Market Research indicates that MICE industry alone generated US$ 1 trillion worldwide in 2017; and is projected to reach US$ 1.5 trillion mark by 2025. This multi-billion industry encompasses the provision of services connected to planning, booking and facilitating seminars, conference centres, convention centres, hospitality and hotels, restaurants, along with event-related services (such as musical concerts, film shows, theatre productions, golf, arts and crafts exhibitions, among many others).

Taking cognizance of MICE as one of the fastest growing tourism industries generating millions of dollars for cities and countries in the US, Asia and Europe, several African countries are gradually charting this territory. Notable cities are: Cape Town, Kigali (Rwanda), Nairobi, Mombasa, Marrakesh and Tunis. Here in Ghana, Accra, the capital city has also been hosting some international events. However, Kumasi, Ghana’s second capital and cultural heartbeat is woefully lagging behind.

The reason is attributed to the absence of world-class MICE facilities such as convention and conference centres, exhibition village, conference arena and first-class hotels.

Kigali Convention Centre, Rwanda. It can host more than 5,000 delegates at a time and contains facilities for business, leisure and events. Source: Africa-ontherise.com

According to African Tourism Partners, a worldwide practice demonstrates that every fourth individual out of tens of millions people goes abroad on a business trip once in a while. And what makes a destination desirable for meetings and conferences is the host city’s infrastructure.

Travelers seek to combine their business programs with recreational experiences. And as Mr. Alex Boakye, Director of Quality Assurance, Ghana Tourism Authority, points out, “Many tourists will look for entertainment and expect that the facilities such as theatres, cinemas, exhibitions, golf, and shows are available, especially in the cities. If entertainment is not available for them, it is reflected in their survey as a reason for their dissatisfaction”.

It is therefore an imperative for Kumasi to have flexible meeting options and state-of-the-art facilities such as: convention centre, conference centre, museums, exhibition village and conference arena at a convenient location to become a modernized city and one of the best MICE venues in Africa.

It must be pointed out that for the past decades, tourism operators, entertainment pundits, event management companies, and artistes in Kumasi have been appealing to the government for theatre facility. However, with my understanding of the changing needs of the tourism and events industry market, it would be better for Kumasi to provided MICE, and not just a theatre facility.

It seems to appear that there is a lack of appreciation and understanding for the tourism and event industry on the part of city authorities in Kumasi, and the government as a whole. Therefore, there is the need on the part of these stakeholders to prioritize tourism and events infrastructure to strengthen events management, find the niche and formulate business tourism in Kumasi, thereby taking advantage of the untapped market in Africa.

Kigali Arena, Rwanda. The arena is a multi-purpose live entertainment facility with a seated capacity of 10,000. It hosts indoor sports games, concerts, conferences and corporate events. Source: Corona-renderer.com.

MICE in Kumasi is not only desirable, but also needful. This is why: Not only are international events hosted in Accra, but also local events. For instance, when Ghana celebrated the highly acclaimed and attention grabbing event, the Year of Return, core activities such as concerts, seminars and conferences were only held in Accra.

Besides, Uncle Ebo Whyte, famous for his quarterly theatre productions has stopped coming to Kumasi partly due to lack of theatre facility. More so, almost 90% of artistes from Ashanti Region have relocated to Accra on account of events infrastructure deficiency in the region to showcase their artistic talents and to groom new artistes.

It must be noted that event organizers before organizing events debate where they want to hold their event. Thus, quality content alone isn’t enough to grab attendees’ attention. Therefore, event organizers probe their team, “Which city has the convention centres, conference facilities, hotels, restaurants, the attractions and other essential components of the tourism and events industry? And Kumasi, Ghana’s second capital lacks these convention and conference centres.

Kumasi’s need for MICE is particularly important as the Ministry of Tourism, Creative Arts and Culture is pushing forward with its plans to make Ghana the preferred destination for MICE.

Therefor there should be deliberate attempt and concerted efforts by city authorities and Government to find investors to construct ultramodern infrastructures such as the ones pictured above. This will position Kumasi for bigger local and international corporate conferences and entertainment events.

According to World Travel and Tourism Council, MICE delegates and audience are high spenders as money is spent mostly at convention centres, entertainment venues, restaurants, hotels, and conference centres. They spend at nearly every unique venue imaginable.

MICE will do more wonders for the Region. The benefits will be overwhelming and phenomenal. As an engine of regional economic growth, here are some of the benefits of MICE:

1. MICE will boost the local economy as travelers may go to local places such as galleries, museums, theatres, etc., especial the regional capital, Kumasi.

2. Publicity of the Region: Besides the economic growth, Kumasi, the regional capital will become more recognizable as a travel destination around the world.

3. Creation of employment opportunities: It provides employment to unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled manpower; such as the professionals hired to host the event or taxi driver.

4. Boosts the local culture – art, skills tradition, cultural beauty and hospitality to the world.

5. Conference delegates will be encouraged to return to the city or resort on vacation, receiving presentations and publicity material on the attractions they can enjoy when they bring their family.

6. Business contacts will be made, and a well-run event in a welcoming city can encourage new investments in the region.

7. Sources of income: MICE will deepen government’s source of income via sales tax, service tax etc. and for private sector as handicraft, arts, etc. are the things that attract tourists and most of them buy them, the sellers will make some profits too.

By: Emmanuel Jewel Peprah Mensah, is with the Centre for National Culture, Kumasi. Creative Art Director, Critic and Playwright.
Email: ej.peprahmensah@gmail.com

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