Much has been said about the hassles involved in crossing our neighbouring borders for trade and tourism. Well, just over a week ago, this proposition was put to the test again.
A gallant team of practitioners mainly made up of members of the Tour Guides Association of Ghana travelled by road from Ghana to tour Togo and Benin. Led by National President Sammy Ashford Banibensu, and Greater Accra President Elvis Wallace Otoo, the team experienced the good, the bad and the ugly.
They and their work team must be saluted for the self-sponsored expedition. Over time, some of the sights and experiences would be shared. But for now, this is an exposition on the importance of cross-border tourism.
For starters, an increasing number of tourists to Ghana are beginning to use our country as the base while they do quick dashes to neighbouring countries before finally returning to Europe and the Americas.
The same trend pertains to tourists who visit Togo, Benin or Burkina Faso. The reasons for this trend vary and are for another conversation.
What that means for tour guides is that they must be familiar with what pertains to these other destinations. That way, the client is better served.
What was heartwarming over the five-day visit across the three countries was the working rapport between Ghanaian tour guides and those of Togo and Benin. Indeed, for many of the sites, the local tourists acted as the ground handlers.
A plus is the smoothness with which these Francophones spoke “our English” language. A feat we struggle to do. This one too is for another conversation.
Let us get to class (lol).
Cross-border tourism implies short tourism-related trips from across the border within a certain cross-border catchment area. Traditionally, this is due to the location of attractions on both sides of the border or the easy opportunity to visit another country for shopping, entertainment and sightseeing in a short period. The decision to travel to a neighbouring country is often related to the desire to discover new places with different historical, natural and cultural characteristics. In some cases, the border itself becomes a tourist attraction.
Crossing a political border is an exciting part of a trip, something “out of the ordinary” and exotic while a short travel distance enables one to include more destinations in a single trip.
Examples of cross-border tourism initiatives are found across the globe, featuring a particularly high intensity in Europe.
Typically, cities are the main attractions for tourists featuring tourist sights, hotels, restaurants and other infrastructure facilities. In the case of cross-border tourism, especially when tourists travel by car, this might be a good opportunity for rural settlements to receive economic benefits from their location along the path of tourist movement and, in the future, become an independent tourist destination.
The sustainability of tourism as a way of developing a territory is related both to the richness of the region’s tourism resources (including places to attract and accommodate tourists) and its compatibility with the interests of local communities.
Recent studies on cross-border tourism question the conventional principles of outlining tourism destinations limited to administrative boundaries, advocating for using a wider approach based on the actual tourists’ consumption patterns This implies incorporating tourist destinations on both sides of the border being part of a single tourist route.
The idea is that cross-border mobility (including tourism) or its absence is the result of a combination of rational and emotional reasons. At the same time, the size of the differences between the border regions acts either as a driver of cross-border activity—if it is acceptable for those crossing the border—or as an inhibitor—in cases where the differences are too large (which discourages travel) or, on the contrary, there are none at all
Literature on cross-border cooperation outlines several factors influencing the development of tourism in cross-border areas:
- Long-standing history of good neighbourliness;
- Positive political climate and the image of the border region;
- Joint public initiatives and institutional coordination;
- Tourism infrastructure development and availability of unique tourist attractions (e.g., ski resort, amusement park, aqua park, etc.);
- Economic benefits for tourists due to price differences; and
- Ease of travel resembled the existing level of development of the road infrastructure, the diversity of the modes of transport and visa restrictions.
The aforementioned factors are considered to be universal, affecting all types of cross-border cooperation in tourism. The active development of cross-border tourism in border tourist regions taking place between central cities on both sides of the border, where most of the tourist infrastructure is concentrated, would also affect rural settlements located in the zone of the main cross-border tourist flows.