Mr Acquaye was speaking at the launch of the Second National Tourism and Hospitality Exhibition Conference and Career Fair (NATHAFEST 2015) on the theme: “Tourism and hospitality: key to economic growth and elimination of unemployment,” in Accra.
He said the tourism and hospitality sector has vast and untapped potentials with massive opportunities for great entrepreneurship, and skills development which should be tapped for national wealth and economic growth.
Mr Acquaye noted that the lack of interest of the youth to train and take up jobs in these sectors either due to lack of knowledge of the potential that exists in the sector which must be addressed in the short to medium term if Ghana is to attain targets of the tourism sector.
He said government must necessarily put tourism and hospitality at the forefront of national development and reduce over reliance on the extractive industry, which has led to destruction of vast sway of arable lands and environmental degradation with potentially dire consequences for future generations.
He said there is the need for the expansion of education in collaboration with industry to attract the youth and build up entrepreneurship and skills in general tourism operation, hotel and hospitality management so as to bridge the current gap and help in the growth of the sector.
Mr Kwasi Anim Larbie, Chief Research Officer, Ghana Tourism Authority said the tourism sector has become a vital tool for the economic growth and natural development, as well as provides investment and foreign exchange earnings for the country and contributes to job creation and has the potential of reducing unemployment.
He said as a nation it is important to develop a national policy on tourism since the industry has become highly competitive in recent years and urged the youth to take advantage of the situation and secure themselves jobs that would in the long run be beneficial to them and the nation as a whole.
Mr Goyimwole Enukomeko Kpodo, Chairman, National Planning Committee, said the tourism and hospitality industry is vast and offers endless and exciting opportunities for those who aspire to a career within it.
He said the tourism and hospitality industry is all over the world the largest employer, largest income earner and the oldest as well as the greatest industry.
“If we have to put our employment mountains behind us in Ghana, then we have no choice but to begin a fascinating journey that explores the diversity of the world’s greatest industry,” he added.
Mr Kpodo said the objective of the event was to encourage the Ghanaian youth to take on careers in the tourism and hospitality industry, adding that this year’s event was designed to create awareness and promote the growth of the tourism and hospitality sector.
He said NATHAFEST 2015 was therefore designed to promote career choices for the youth in the sector and also bridge the gap between career choices, funding support for graduates and self-employment businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector.
“The Conference and career fair programme is set to bring critical mass of experts across the hospitality industry, corporate bodies, students and the ... public to focus on the role of tourism and hospitality sector play in order to create jobs and eliminate unemployment among young school leavers in Ghana and to provide a sustainable platform for investors to target the industry for expansion.
He called on the government, all political parties, religious groups, corporate bodies, traditional leaders the media and Ghanaians to join hands with NATHAFEST Foundation to take practical and national approach to develop the tourism industry.