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Opinions of Friday, 15 December 2017

Columnist: Kwame Gyasi

Health tourism and the nation’s health

In health tourism alone, this country stands to gain a lot of foreign currency.

The Korle-Bu Cardiothoracic Centre can be moved away from Korle-Bu to a virgin area with a more pristine environment and expanded to be easily turned into a Centre of Excellence for health tourism for the whole of the African continent and even beyond where people from the African sub-region can access excellent but affordable health facility at a cost far below what they would be forced to pay in similar facilities in advanced western countries.

This year, the world is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the pioneering role played by the South African heart surgeon, Dr. Christiaan Bernard in performing the first heart transplant in a South African hospital.

If we had followed the wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew and recognised the great health and economic potential within Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, Ghana would today be boasting of her own Christian Bernard and reaping the health and economic benefits. The same thing can be said of the Orthopedic Centre in Koforidua which is another clear example of an important health tourism facility given little recognition.

In the contemporary travel setting, escape from a mundane, alienating urban setting has long been recognised as a major motivation force in tourism, while the physical activity possible through health or sports tourism provides the outlet for potential personal rewards.

In adition, the desire for healthy lifestyle, which is a significant intrisic reward of travel, is a component of tourism behaviour and have become increasingly important in recent years. One can also note the role of fashion and the significance of body image as an influence on the individual motivations to attend beauty clinics and spa.

One component of health tourism is Spa tourism that relates to the provisison of specific health facilites and destinations which traditionally include the provision of mineral waters but which may be used to refer to tourist resorts that intergrate health facilities with accomodation.

The acronym SPA which is Latin for “sanus par acqua” and which translates as “health through water” appears like a distant star in the skies to even some educated people in this country.

Facilities within the city centre far away from any river bodies are advertised as spa. It is in this regard that the services at Holy Trinity SPA and Health Farm owned and managed by Dr. Felix Anyah and located at Sogakope in the Volta Region, comes into mind.

The services and facilities at Holy Trinity SPA and Health Farm are not only unique but of international standards and superb. They combine the services of a hospitality industry with programmed health care regime.

It is a place worth spending at least a weekend to experience what has come to be known in the tourism industry as health tourism. The entire health resort is located on the pristine unspoiled banks of the Volta River with a picturesque view of the southern bridge built by a German company over the Volta River.

Indeed a visit to the health resort provides the tourist the opportunity to undertake a motor-powered boat ride either downstream towards the Ada estuary or upstream on the Volta River with a sight of the famous Jerry John Rawlings country home built on the shores of the Volta River.

Other services provided at the health resort include counseling, medical examination, physiotherapy, sleep disorder therapy, sex disorder therapy, snoring therapy, beauty therapy, betar therapy, colon hydrotherapy, alternate therapies, dental treatment, cosmetic dentistry, stress management, addiction management, weight management, scientific relaxation, convalescing home, health vacation, honeymoon, and retreat among others. Facilities include conferencing, riverside chalets, riverbank accommodation, restaurants, horse and camel riding, playground, volley ball pitch, basketball and tennis court, football pitch, squash and badminton arenas, swimming pool, group cycling, gym, group aerobics, guided forest expedition, contact with nature, river cruise, kayaking/canoeing, Kinect game/ PlayStation, satellite TV, fishing, resident band, church service, Christian library, natural health shop, beauty salon, massage (Swedish, aromatherapy, Thai, shiatsu, hot stone, calabash), whirlpool/airpool massage, reflexology and infra-red sauna.

A typical treatment a tourist who books for one of the services available like “health vacation” goes through provides a wonderful experience. After arriving at the health resort at around 5.00pm on Friday evening for a weekend workout and park your car, you are welcomed by smiling and polite ladies and gentlemen who lead you to the reception. After registration, you are offered a seat at the front desk area where you are offered a glass of a drink.

You are then led to your room. Dinner could be taken either in the main restaurant or on the platform constructed on the Volta River. Early morning should find you with the group aerobics under a qualified instructor.

After that you are taken through counseling. Breakfast follows similar format to dinner. Being a health resort, management of the place is very particular of the type of food served.

Then you go through a whole regime of medical examination from the checking of blood pressure, blood and urine sample examination. Then you are taken through the stress management machine, a unique machine found only at the resort which records your stress level.

The next stage is the infra-red sauna regime and then the massaging. Lunch could be taken during a boat ride on the Volta River. Later you can chose to participate in any of the sporting events available like camel riding or even sight seeing around.

The Holy Trinity SPA and Health Farm stands to earn huge foreign exchange for the country.

However there appears to be little or no encouragement from the government either due to the lack of the knowledge of the potential of the tourism industry on the part of people in charge or plain incompetence.

One would have expected that very good motorable roads constructed by the state agencies would lead to these facilities to compliment the efforts of the local entrepreneurs. This is far from the truth and most tourist facilities in the country are suffering from this state neglect.

Note the deplorable long time it took to reconstruct a grotesque of a bridge on the road leading to the Elmina Castle. It would appear the engineers and planners who worked on the bridge from inception to completion had a huge sense of humour to create a museum piece to fit the Castle.

Electivity bills some hotels are forced to pay went up astronomically during the NDC era forcing entrepreneurs in that sector to put up brave faces in order not to redeploy employees with grave consequence for the economic and social stability or run their own private generating set which they find to be more at economic advantage.

Additionally, almost invariably, road networks to these tourist destinations are always in deplorable conditions. Despite the massive economic development brought to Elmina by the Coconut Grove Hotel, the branch road to the resort from the Cape Coast – Takoradi road is one big shame.

The Holy Trinity SPA and Health Farm like many other tourist destinations in this country, is also caught up in this unfriendly web. The branch road from the main Sogakope – Aflao road leading to the resort is not in good shape, a clear disincentive to tourists who wish to patronize the tourist resort.

It is quite clear governments at all levels are shedding their responsibilities towards the development and growth of the nation in areas where the country could capitalise on its comparative advantage such as the tourism sector and rather concentrating on areas where foreign capital is used to fleece the nation of its natural resources such as the mining sector.

There is the need for a paradigm shift in the development regime of this country.