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Opinions of Thursday, 22 November 2012

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

Tapping deep into our Tourism Potential in Ghana

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

18th November 2012

As the 7th December 2012 general elections draws near, it is time our aspiring politicians took a second look at our Ghanaian economy to see where to place their priorities. Countries like Switzerland, Spain, Britain, France and Kenya, derive a lot of foreign exchange from their invisible exports of services such as education, financial services, tourism, transport, insurance and the like. In fact, the tourism and the hospitality industry is the largest and fastest growing industry in the world, followed by IT.

To develop our tourism and hospitality industry in Ghana, we have all it takes to break into the circuit of the most preferred destinations in Africa. We have abundant sunshine, warm and hospitable people, political stability and our road infrastructure is growing steadily. Perhaps, we need to improve on our health care delivery system, which is a bit expensive. I have always gone to Ghana and found three basic needs relatively cheaper. These are accommodation, food and transport. I must also add that our internet speed is commendable as it is the fastest in Africa and cheap. It is ranked 75th in the world. In terms of hotel charges, they are a bit high in Accra but then it depends on the class you settle for, because there are countless budget hotels and hostels of moderate quality.

I once arrived in Accra from Lusaka about a decade ago. My friend’s house was at Adabraka. I told my wife who was based in Ghana to book a budget hotel near where my friend’s wife’s family house was. She did. When we moved in, in the night with our 5 year old daughter, we were treated to some shock of our life. First, when I went to the gents, the whole place was flooded and I had to roll up my trousers to wade through the flood. Secondly, when we slept in the night, the mattress and boarding caved in and eventually, we had to take out the mattress and put it on the floor. Mosquitoes were also galore. I cursed my wife for going for such a shoddy place but then we put up for only one night and the following day, we left with alacrity for Winneba, my home town.

Quality hotels have since then sprung up all over Accra and they are of world class. Even in municipal Winneba, we have trendy hotels such as Windy Bay, Sir Charles, Lagoon Lodge, Acorn Planter Lodge, Yeenuah, among others. Very posh and plush hotels and motels can be found in all major towns and cities of Ghana, and they are neat, classy, cheap and secure. Ghanaians in the Diaspora ought to come home often to patronize such trendy and affordable hotels. They may not be as high class as the Astoria in New York or Sylvia’s Restaurant in New York or those at the Riviera in Paris or Costa del Sol in Spain, but then they are excellent by all standards.

Ghana has attractive natural sites such as Akosombo Dam, Ho scenic mountains, Busia Beach Resort in Half Assini, Mole Game Park and Paga crocodile pond up north, Boti Falls near Koforidua, Wli Falls, the largest tree in Ghana near Akim Oda, Kakum Forest Walkway near Cape Coast, beautiful beaches along the coast, historical castles at Elmina, Senya Beraku, Cape Coast, Christianborg Castle, Ussher Fort, Fort William at Anomabo, Aburi Botanical Gardens and Peduase Lodge near Accra, Nkrumah Mausoleum near Accra, Universities of Ghana, Cape Coast, Science and Technology, Tarkwa University of Mining, University of Education at Winneba, Cocoa Plantations at New Tafo, Bunso and in Brong Ahafo, among others. There are many cultural things to see in Ghana such as Kente weaving at Bonwire, Ashanti, beads market at Asesewa, market days at Mankesim, Asamankese, and Salaga, Winneba Deer Hunt Festival in May, Ohum Festival, Okyir, Hogbetsotso, Asafoatse, Dagbon Fire Festival, Odwira Festival, Akwasidae, Akwambo, Akumase, Kundum and many other cultural events. Our traditional foods, crafts, constume, fabrics and jewellery are beckoning to foreigners as well as local tourists. In fact, we need as Ghanaians to make time to relax and go on adventures to explore the wealth of our heritage.

Although as a Ghanaian who has travelled to places in Africa, yet, I know nothing beyond Kumasi in Ghana. This is also true for many Ghanaians because we little understand creating wealth for ourselves. It is said that charity begins at home. I think the Ghana Tourist Board has to launch a vigorous campaign to target the Ghanaian market which remains untapped and idle. Boarding and day schools need to organize many excursions for students for them to know their own country very well and become acquainted with developments in their own backyard. I suggest that the Ghana Tourist Board should create a section for inland tourism and create competitions, sponsorships and dealerships. That way, they will create jobs and help kick start the economy from within. What we should guard against is traditional tourism which is environmentally not sustainable. Traditional tourism is the one based on natural habitats such as the flora and fauna. I think we should concentrate more on the service part of tourism rather than on the tangible aspects such as game reserves, bird and monkey sanctuaries, and human built environments and artefacts. Simply put, we should embark on ecotourism.

We should vigorously revive PANFEST and tap into the African-American population in the USA who have their roots in Africa. We could develop our Akonedi Shrine, Antua Nyamaa, Penkye Otu, Otutu, and other cultural shrines into veritable tourist attractions. Already, we have Rita Marley who has settled in Akwapim land and is crowned a queenmother. There are celebrities like Steve Wonder, Serena Williams and Kwesi Mfuwe who have established contacts in Ghana. We must tap into them to bring business to Ghana, their ancestral home. Our tourism potential has not reached even 20%. There is room for growth. Our local entrepreneurs, tour operators, restauranteers and other ancillary businesses should get their act together and fashion out attractive tour packages to lure tourists from rich countries such as Japan, Germany, Britain, USA, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands and South Korea. Each country in the world has its unique selling point and attractiveness, so we should not pooh-pooh my humble suggestion of being aggressive in marketing our tourist market to outsiders.

I know that some critics will take issue with me that we cannot boast of massive +quality infrastructure as is found in say South Africa or any of the North African countries. But then, that is why we are an LEDC and a lower middle income country. Foreign visitors want unique experiences other than their own and I think Ghana has what it takes to give them that African feel or otherliness experience.

One area I feel sad about is our railway transportation system which has been run down and could be a great means of unique transport for tourists as I myself in 1970, went with my late cousin, John Kow Wobil on a roller coaster triangular trip from Winneba to Accra, then to Kumasi and to Takoradi. I remember our stay at Star Hotel in Kumasi near the football stadium. At Takoradi where we had many relatives, I vividly remember our stint there, what with jamming an afternoon highlife session at Harbour View and the calm and serene view at night, sitting at the wharf restaurants at Takoradi harbour whilst quaffing chilled Star and Club beers, savouring the majestic view of the well lit pacific Atlantic Ocean, and listening to melodious tunes such a C.K. Mann’s songs, or melee such as, Eya a ma wo ano ngo, wo ano ngo……… or Ko me kurow mu kohw3, mbaa, Takoradi…, mbaa, or Obaa yi owe nam papa bi, saa bush ano sonsoba Daa chop money, woa short. What of Pat Thomas, A.B. Crentsil, Skyhawks and much earlier on, the vintage and classic highlife tunes of Broadway, Kofi Ani Johnson, Bob Cole, Uhuru Ramblers, Hedzeleh Sounds, Cooler Lobitos, Wulomoi, Osibisa, Kojo Antwi, George Darko, the list is endless. Do I make you feel wistful or nostalgic? If you are in the Diaspora, I invite you to touch base and I recommend you to go charge your batteries. Home sweet home. I end with a tune by my cousin Bob Pinodo, Asaw yi dze minhu bi da oooo. Surabete.

1. Awo yi, awo yi ama makaa me dofo bi ooo, owo nsu egya, owo nsu egya, ee, ei
2. Se enye me b3y3 dza a, ono oya a hy3 atare pa na neaewuo de3 memp3, n3a ewu o o, aya a neo ewuo de3 memp3
3. Ma adamto pa b3ko agya me na may3 no s3n ni (Kofi Ani Johnson)
4. Buronyi wo awu ee, yiee, woma y3nko hw3 s3 shirt ehy3 no ey3 tough, ey3 hu mapa naaso alteration wo mu oo
5. Wofa no no, oto ontoa ka a e ei ayaa eei, owura no no, y3b3 dan no ka ee, ayeei
6. Amanfo edue ee, aka me kaperba womfa mm me. Amanfo eduee, (Bob Cole)
7. Mara meny3 edwuma, meny3 edwuma makofa besia aboto me do oo ( C.K. Mann)
8. Nsu na oroto yi, m3y3 d3n na mehu me dea,r odo, bra oo, odo bra oo