The huge potential of the tourism sector to rake in substantial revenues for accelerated development has never been in doubt. What has remained doubtful over the years are the kind of policies we keep churning out to facilitate our achievement of the desired results.
Two things readily come to mind, either we don’t know what we are about or we don’t care a hoot about the sector. How do we intend to grow the sector without the necessary infrastructure to attract tourists and create employment especially for our many unemployed youth.
Revenue figures from the tourism sector across the globe do not portray a positive picture about us. Ours pale into insignificance compared to countries like Jamaica, Kenya and South Africa etc. Yet in terms of tourist attractions they may not be ahead of us. Our water falls, mountains, rivers, castles, wildlife and fauna rank with the best in the world.
In addition, our arts are so unique and we boast of a relatively secured country and a warm people but have we packaged these in a manner as to attract tourists?
Apart from not advertising our tourism products to the global world in an aggressive and sustained manner, it seems we are not aware that we are in keen competition with other tourist sites all over the world.
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Sadly, not even the advent of social media seems to have helped. While our competitors are busy taking advantage of all manner of media outlets we seem to be content with where we are and have resorted to our usual, God will make a way syndrome?
Basic challenges confronting the sector are mind boggling since it takes just a little bit of thinking to remove some of these bottlenecks. From unscrupulous taxi drivers who take advantage of our unmetered taxis to dupe unsuspecting tourists and the attitude of the police towards these tourists should they opt to drive themselves is not welcoming.
Perhaps the most challenging of these problems is access to our tourist sites. Take the Central Region which is touted as the engine of our tourism industry and rightly so. It boasts popular attractions like the Kakum National Park, Slave Castles, vast beaches and ancient slave markets. Yet getting to Cape Coast these days is not different from the camel passing through the eye of the needle.
What used to be a two and half hour journey is now double that time., not to talk of the indisciplined drivers who take to the shoulders of the road creating chaos. Which tourist would want to pay good money to arrive at his destination only to spend his entire vacation in traffic? This situation is unattractive.
Sadly, this affects and extends to tourist sites in the Western Region since one must necessarily drive through Central Region to reach tourist destinations in those places. Won’t a loan contracted to fix that road be a good investment in the long term?
This state of affairs has become a huge disincentive to tourists both domestic and foreign. Strangely, nothing is being done about this chaos as Cape Coast and its environs are being asphyxiated of funds because of the lack of tourists.
We need to work on the Cape Coast road especially the Kasoa- Buduburam stretch and extend same to the roads leading to similar facilities in the other regions.
The general higher hotel rates as compared to that in other destinations pose another challenge. And then is the inability of the tourist, after driving all the way in such chaos to get a variety. The sites must be developed in a way as to provide a complete entertainment package for the tourists.
We should aggressively advertise and market our tourist facilities globally. But the other side of this is that even if we did, and some tourists took the bait and arrived here, what do we really have to offer them? Would they tell others about us in a manner that would attract more tourists?
It is really time to pay more serious attention to tourism if we really want to benefit from the sector. For starters we must ensure that access routes are not a disincentive to tourists. As our local adage says “ye de nam na eyi nam”,( we use meat as a bait) .