Moves to ensure safe tourism in Ghana, ( Thursday, March 11, 2010 pg 32)

IN a move to make Ghana a safe tourism destination, the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) has collaborated with the Ghana Police Service and the Tourism Safety and Security Initiative (TOSS), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), to establish a Tourism Police Task Force (TPTF) in the country.

The TPTF or Tourism Police will be a specialised unit within the Ghana Police Service which will provide security and safety for tourists and tourism establishments.

It will also ensure that all tourism and tourism-related establishments registered with and were licensed by the GTB.

Addressing a press conference to outdoor the initiative, a member of the task force, DSP Ruben Asiwoko, said the TPTF had become necessary, as “Ghana’s tourism is growing at a very fast rate and the challenge of insecurity has become clearly imperative”.

“Tourism is assuming greater importance and, therefore, safety and security dimensions are very important and will not be compromised,” he stressed.

DSP Asiwoko indicated that the task force would have responsibilities, including investigating tourist-related crimes, patrolling the beaches, hotels and night-clubs, providing escort for tourists, protecting tourists from harassment and offering general advice and guidance to tourists.

He stated that an establishment could only be registered by the GTB if it was able to produce permit and business documentation from bodies including the Ghana Fire Service, the police, the Town and Country Planning Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

He, therefore, urged owners of tourism establishments to display their valid licences at the first port of call on their premises, since the task force would close down establishments that failed to display valid licences.

He noted that the TPTF would not take over the work of the GTB but rather complement its efforts to ensure that the various tourism destinations in the country were secure, adding that the officers would be in mufti in order not to create a state of insecurity in the minds of tourists.

He noted that a delegation made up of members of the Tour Operators Union of Ghana, the Tourism Safety and Security Initiative and the Ghana Police Service was in Egypt last year to study its tourism policing system.

DSP Asiwoko observed that safety and security issues were tied to a destination’s image and, therefore, called for wider consumer awareness to ensure a positive image for the country as it geared itself up for gains in the tourism sector.

The Deputy Executive Director of the GTB, Mr Edwin Owusu Mensah, in his remarks, said although nothing untoward had happened in the tourism sector, the initiative was a proactive measure to ensure that “our tourists are protected”.

He said issues concerning security in the tourism sector had not been given the needed attention in the past, adding that the initiative would promote best practices in the tourism sector.

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