By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
On 7th December 2012, Ghanaians go to the polls to decide who governs the country. I challenge whoever wins to take up tourism seriously in Ghana as it has a lot of potential to alleviate poverty in the various communities and to create thousands of jobs countrywide. Community-based tourism is being proffered as a new paradigm shift to the traditional unsustainable mass tourism model which has been found not to be environmentally friendly. Community-based tourism is where local communities participate actively in running the tourist activities side by side with support from the Ghana Tourist Board, now rechristened Ghana Tourist Authority.
The traditional councils are allowed to derive some revenue from the tourist activities. Some tourists are made to live in the communities and participate in communal life to savour indigenous ways of living and doing things in Ghana. That is vintage cultural tourism. In 2011, there were 1,087,000 tourist arrivals in Ghana and tourism contributed 3% to the GDP, and earned the country 2.19 billion dollars. In Botswana, they had 1.5 million tourists, while Zambia had 800,000 tourist arrivals. Relatively, we are not doing badly in Ghana but then we need to increase our tourism potential as currently, we are operating at about 20% capacity.
There are infinite possibilities to exploit in the tourism sector. We need to spruce up our act by creating more conducive and congenial atmosphere to make Ghana a top-notch preferred tourist destination in Africa. In Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, they concentrate on game or wildlife attractions as their unique selling point. That is what I call hard tourism. We in Ghana cannot compete very much in the area of game parks. We, therefore, have to focus more on soft tourism or cultural tourism, whereby we can showcase our cultural heritage as our unique selling point or attractiveness.
We could package our highlife tunes, choral music, traditional songs and Ananse Stories, our delicious food menus, our history and in deed the whole gamut of our oral tradition and intellectual property. Our local film industry is booming and we could arrange film festivals, sing-song international competitions, storytelling festivals, among others.
We, in deed need revival of our arts and folklore. During the time of Nkrumah, we had the Ghana Bureau of Languages which published books and newspapers in our local languages to capture our rich cultural heritage. We also had the Encyclopaedia Africana project which fizzled out with the ouster of Nkrumah. We had a Ministry of Parks and Gardens which oversaw the beautification of our towns and cities. We had the African Bureau in our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Perhaps, we need to revive these outfits to boost our tourism potential. Tourism has a great multiplier effect on the economy.
Next year, 2013, Zambia and Zimbabwe co-host the United Nationals World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Conference in Livingstone and Victoria Falls towns in Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively from 24th to 30th August. This is a wonderful opportunity for Ghana to showcase her tourism potential to the rest of the world, and to learn more about best practice from about 4000 conferees and attendees at the said Conference. We may not have the 2723 foot or half a mile tall Burj Khalifa Hotel in Dubai in Ghana, but then we offer soft exports of our cultural heritage or invisible services such as our sense of humour, our African personality and our matchless hospitality, which is encapsulated in our welcome greeting, Akwaaba. I leave you with some recollections of some old highlife tunes;
1. B3y3 d3n na wonko ohia asoma wo
2. Oh mama oh papa, wetin make emouth beeg—fine fine you go look
3. Me dofo adaa daa me aaa, menenam a me ko wu
4. Nk3bo baa yaa, nk3bo baa yaa, adaa daa
5. Menam menam yi matow abowa o o, matow abowa oo
6. Nsu beto mframa di kan, meka yoo na wanti yi ooo
7. Ponko abodam a, no wura no de oombo dam bi
8. Anko no bi eei, ahomatsea, odo yewu
9. Ekoo ti burofo o o, nananom mo mfr3 yie
10. Obra, obra, aaa, obra, obra nye woara abo oo
11. Som nyame, som nyame….
12. Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, Ameeen