Using festivals to boost tourism

BY: Daily Graphic
File photo
File photo

The country is replete with festivals. On average, there are over 70 festivals celebrated by the various ethnic groups in the country. Regrettably, the country is not taking much advantage of its diverse cultural attraction to spur economic progress.

More recently, the Daily Graphic has covered the festivals of Bugum and Homowo and in the coming weeks, many more will be celebrated.

The Daily Graphic believes that the celebration of these various festivals must count for something and should serve as a springboard to boost tourism and accelerate the country’s development. This is an idea which time has come.

It is time the country considered using festivals to boost tourism as well as shore up revenue for national development.

Fortunately, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, under Dr Mohammed Awal is placing a lot of premium to develop this sector. He wants the tourism sector to generate over five billion Ghana cedis and become the second largest contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

We are fully in support of this idea because it is achievable. Festivals in Ghana are unique important occasions for many people to celebrate their culture, tradition and customs.

It is a time for travelling where many people congregate at their ancestral home for celebrations to mark both the beginning and the end of the traditional year to celebrate great events of the past and purify the traditional state.

When packaged well, they could also attract a lot of the diasporan and global tourist community into the country to enjoy our customs and traditions and in the process boost economic activity. The Year of Return tourism initiative has provided ample evidence of a successful blend of commercial success and entertainment.

Nothing stops us from planning major international events meant to bring those in the diaspora home to coincide with the celebration of Homowo and indeed all other festivals in order to gain the necessary tourist traction.

For us, festival tourism has the potential to generate several economic benefits, enhance quality of life locally and create community social solidarity.

Unfortunately, we haven’t found more creative ways of celebrating our festivals and we still maintain the format we saw our ancestors bequeath to us without varying them in any form or shape to enhance their crossover appeal.

We are confident that we don’t need to look far and that the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Ghana Tourism Authority and the rest of the stakeholders understand very well the push and pull factors in the organisation of successful festivals and support the traditional leaders who are the custodians of our culture.

This means that the Ghana Tourism Authority should ensure that the festivals do not erode entrenched traditional values. It needs to put in place measures to reduce the negative effects of the festivals such as providing awareness programmes that will educate attendees as well as maintaining traditional values of the custodians of the festival. They also need to educate the public about the environmental effects of activities.

Second, it is imperative that government agencies such as the Ghana Tourism Authority, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture as well as traditional rulers and festival organisers factor the positive gains and the negative ramifications of festivals into the hosting of the events.

The country stands to enjoy enormous benefits if its cultural heritage can be marketed effectively through tourism. The fact is, festivals have an influence on our heritage. Indeed, they promote tolerance and multiculturalism. All these elements are the positive impact of festival tourism.

The possibility to spend one’s free time in an interesting way, develop one’s interests and make new relationships is a particularly important function of festival tourism.

We therefore urge the government and all relevant institutions to help support Homowo and all other festivals of the country to grow into international events that will consequently earn the country billions of dollars.