Awakening to Eco-Tourism in Ghana: Sharing My Thoughts

by Egi Gaisie

The opening statement in the feature ‘Go Green: Awakening to Eco-Tourism’ about two months ago, reads: I think I needed a break; I was emotionally drained and physically tired!  A friend, an entrepreneur, recently described a similar condition a group of women entrepreneurs was feeling. They found a good travel ‘deal’ and took off from the shores of Ghana for a break! I did the same!

It was a refreshing period. Among the tourist attractions, I visited was a Park. I must have spent half a day, at least four hours there. By the time I got into the innermost part of the park, the climax of my encounter produced a unique experience that is difficult to find appropriate words to describe or explain! I left the Park totally convinced that green, clean tourism is therapeutic!

The above is a before and an after the experience at a Park. Have you wondered what the before and after experiences have been for tourists visiting our tourist sites? Will they go back again? What are their unique experiences?

In the ‘Awakening to eco-tourism in Ghana’ series, I shared a rare opportunity I had that ‘opened my eyes’ to our use of our landscape and wildlife, historic and cultural resources in tourism.

Did you observe this diamond image , representing EXCELLENCE, under each of the headings? It was serving as a backdrop to compare the actuals you were reading to your expectations on excellence. Not being idealistic, I have been thinking along the following lines.

  • Access to information about the places
  • Physical access to the facilities
  • Availability and condition of support facilities to the visitor/tourist attractions (accommodation, catering, entertainment, transport, retailing)
  • Cleanliness and cleaning practices of the community
  • Security and safety (procedures and practices)
  • General reception of visitors/tourists

Should you be visiting these places what will your basic expectations be, bearing in mind that these communities are largely rural settlements?

Some of us missed our way going to Xave Bird Sanctuary, in the Volta Region and Widnaba situated in the Red Volta River Valley, in the Upper East Region. There were a few accommodation challenges. The state of some roads would cause you to think if the trip is worth it. At the sites where few tourists visit, local tour guides are not readily available. When they eventually show up, they are very enthusiastic! Let’s sample a few comments from reviews.

Hills hiking tour

These new trails were only partially cleared when I visited, as all men were occupied with harvesting. So the going was a bit rough. …Unfortunately, there was no good place to sit down and relax… but that might be considered, once the village receives more visitors.

Historical walking tour

During a guided tour, I was shown a hollow baobab tree in which potential slaves were held captive, waiting to be sold at the market. You will be invited to enter it, to get a feel of the reality of the past.

The guide also took me to several spots around Widnaba that are considered sacred because of their proven protective qualities (like invisibility) against slave raiders and other enemies. These stories of the spirits are quite intriguing.

Paga Crocodile pond

‘Rip-off, but still a nice experience’ and, ‘Overpriced and disappointing.’ An enhanced environment with interesting activities aiming at giving value for money would be useful.

The peaceful relationship between the crocodiles and their human counterparts is a mystery. Though this is normal to the indigenes of Paga, yet it continues to baffle others.

Gone are the days when tourism was merely sightseeing or recounting history!

While almost anything at one time or another may become an attraction, we need to identify anticipated experiences to derive from participating in the attractions and work towards designing, developing, and managing the places.

By making distinctions between ‘touring attractions’ and ‘destination attractions’ we should be able to distribute our scarce resources more effectively.

Creative Arts and Tourism

For some of us, when a customer walks into a restaurant and pays a certain amount for the apim and nkontomire, or any food, he or she orders, the customer is not only paying for the food item; they are paying for the “Experience”.

If you stayed in a hotel room, you will have a ‘room experience’ to talk about and this holds true for many other interactions within the tourism industry.

I have been wondering how the different aspects of our dynamic creative arts industry can help create appropriate experiences to boost the experiences of tourists/visitors.

I came across the clip that follows. I was amazed at this outstanding effort!  However, this is an initial concept that needs further development. Ghana’s sea of sculpted slave heads commemorates the slave trade, 400 years on.

The add-on to the Atorkor Slave Market (a tourist site in Keta, Volta region) below is the memorial to commemorate the slaves’ arduous journey.

If we study the pattern of tourist arrivals, staging the whole enactment will bring life to these murals!

Source: Keta Tourism

Involving local communities in tourism management empowers them; however, education is a key to their success, for locals and visitors alike.

The solution to last week’s word puzzle.

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