By Alex Osei-Boateng
ACCRA, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Ghana will invest more in its sports infrastructure in the coming years to promote sports tourism and rake in the desired foreign exchange, Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, minister-designate for Youth and Sports, said here Friday.
Sports tourism refers to international trips specifically taken to watch sporting events. Common examples include international events such as world soccer, rugby, cricket as well as (non-team) participant sports such as tennis, golf and horse racing.
Industry actors believe Ghana has the potential of reaping from tourism owing to the growing numbers of travelers who visit the country annually. However, infrastructural deficit has been a major setback hampering the development of the sector.
But Afriyie-Ankrah promised to develop the culture of sports to attract interested persons to the sector and put measures in place to position Ghana as a sports tourism destination.
"When there is adequate infrastructure and we (Ghana) zone in on sporting areas where it has competitive advantage, we will attract more tourists to the country," he said during his vetting in parliament.
Beach soccer and paragliding, the fastest growing sports in Ghana, have been tipped as areas with the potential of developing into vital sports tourism destination in the sub-region.
The potential for a firm sports tourism drive nationwide cannot be underrated, especially following the publication by a global rating agency in the tourism industry, Frommer's Travel.
Known for its credibility, Frommer's Travel named Ghana among the top 10 tourism destinations for 2012, setting the stage for multiple opportunities and challenges to capitalize on this new position.
Ghana has planned to train local paragliding tandem pilots to promote the recreational sport of tandem paragliding which has largely been patronized by international paragliders since its inception some few years earlier.
Afriyie-Ankrah assured Ghanaians that his main focus would be to liaise with the Ghana Football Association (GFA) to re- strategize to ensure Ghana's qualification to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
He called on Ghanaians to continue to support the senior national soccer team, the Black Stars, as they prepare to vie for a third place in the ongoing AFCON tournament at the Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth in South Africa.