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Huge tourist arrivals overwhelms staff of Kakum Park   
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Even though tourist arrivals at Kakum Park in the Central Region reached 136,000 in 2008, only 12 tour guides are at post at the national tourist site, an official of the park said on Wednesday.

“We have 74 staff members out of which only 12 of us are tour guides… the rest are security persons, front desk staff and other peripheral staff,” Ms Kate Effi Donkoh, a senior tour guide told a group of international travel writers and local journalists on a visit to the park.

The visit was part of the on-going United Nations World Tourism Day, on the theme: “Tourism Celebrating Diversity.”

Kakum Park is a 360 square kilometres state-owned protected forest reserve, jointly managed by the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission and the Ghana Heritage Conservation Trust (GHCR), a non-government organisation.

It is famous for being the only tourist site with the only canopy way in Africa and other features that serve as major attractions to tourists from all over the world.

According to Ms. Donkoh during the peak seasons, between March and August, tour guides are overwhelmed with the number of tourists, saying, there were times one tour guide was assigned to 120 tourists.

During Wednesday’s visit, one tour guide was assigned to 61 tourists.

“This situation makes it difficult for us to keep a close eye… to control the tourist and to check them from littering the park,” she said.

True to her words, even though there were sign posts, which said “Please do not litter”, the travel writers, numbering 18, who were assigned to Ms. Donkoh, ran into litter during the tour.

Ms. Donkoh said a maximum of 20 tourists per tour guide was ideal to ensure that the forest was kept clean and guarantee the safety of the tourists.

A staff of the Wildlife Division told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on condition of anonymity that inadequate staff numbers was a general problem nationwide.

In 2007 there were 100,000 tourists at Kakum, said Ms. Ernestina Anim, a director at the park.

She told the travel writers that out of the total number of visitors to the park, 70 per cent were Ghanaians.

“Of the 70 per cent Ghanaians visitor, 15 per cent are adults and 55 per cent are children and of the 30 per cent foreigners, 20 per cent are adults and 10 per cent are children,” she said.

Ghanaian adults pay GH¢2.5 per head and children GH¢1.5 as admission fee, while foreign adults are charged GH¢9.00 per head and children GH¢5.00.

According to Ms. Anim, there were other special charges for persons wishing to take still or moving pictures in the park.

She said people taking still pictures were charged GH¢200 and GH¢500 for moving pictures.

Some of the travel writers questioned why they should be charged so much for wanting to take pictures to promote the park as a world tourist site.

Revenue generated from the park is distributed between the Wildlife Division and the GHCR.

The Wildlife Division manages the reserve while GHCR takes care of some resources like the canopy way and the camp site.

The visit also took the travel writers to Cape Coast and Elmina Castle, where the journey through slave dungeons and the gate of no return, and the narration of the history of what Africans suffered under slave masters in those castles, got almost all of them moody and dumb founded.

Some of them admitted to the GNA that they felt guilty for what their forefathers did to Africans.

One of the travel writers, Mr John Bell, from the UK, said the castles were clear evidence of what African’s were put through in the past, saying in Britain “we never learnt the history of the slave trade in the way we have learnt today”.

He said for British students, the slave trade was interpreted in a way to remove all emotional attachment, saying that Africans needed to do a better interpretation of that period and present the right picture to the world.

Mr. Bell noted that the way so many tourists sites were crowded in the Central Region, was not good enough for the benefit of tourism to the entire nation, saying the there should be a wider spread of tourist sites in order for the entire country to reap from the benefits.

The writers paid a courtesy call on Ms Ama Benyiwa Doe, Regional Minister, where Mr Spencer Francis Taylor, Acting Executive Director of the Regional Development Commission (CEDCOM) briefed them about the tourist sites and investment opportunities in the area.

He urged them to write about the sites to attract tourists and investors to the region.

Mr Taylor said CEDCOM would facilitate and safeguard the investments of foreign entrepreneurs through its one-stop-shop investment package.
Source: GNA

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