International travel writers laud Ghana’s tourist sites

International Travel Writers on tour to parts of the country on Thursday lauded Ghana as the true gateway to Africa, citing the rich history, varied cultures, hospitality of the people and the tourism sites of the country. The travel writers, numbering 12, drawn from the UK, USA, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Spain and Italy, together with local journalists and officials of the Ministry of Tourism and some tourism students, are currently touring parts of the country, as part of the on-going UN World Tourism Day. The seven-day celebration, from September 21 – September 27, is on the theme: “Tourism Celebrating Diversity.” The visit of the international travel writers was under the auspices of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and Tourism Ministry. In separate interviews with the Ghana News Agency, four of the travel writers said their experience in Ghana so far was beyond what they expected. Ms. Alla Peressolova, Fair and Communications Assistant Officer from the UNWTO and leader of the delegation said “my expectation has been greatly exceeded by what I have seen and experienced so far”. “The regional tourism potential here is fantastic because the people are very friendly, the culture is rich and beautiful and the history is unique,” she said. She said Ghana was definitely a great tourism destination and good investment environment, adding that there was need to improve the overall national infrastructure and roads in particular to ensure that the country reaped the full benefits of its tourism potentials. Ms. Peressolova, praised the Coconut Groove Hotel for serving exclusively locally cultivated rice, saying that “we enjoyed the local rice and I think it is good for the rice business in the country. Other hotels should do the same”. She said she was also impressed with the way the Asantes in particular had sustained their culture and monarchy to the extent that till date the Asantehene still commanded so much honour, authority and power. “I felt special when I shook the hands of the Asantehene. I think what he represents is what makes the Asante Kingdom special,” she said. Mr. John Bell, a Freelance Travel Journalist from the UK said Ghana was the greatest introduction to the rest of Africa, adding that the country represented the essence of Africa without all the trouble associated with the people. He noted that British school history books only talked about two wars between the Asantes and the British colonialists, in which the British won, “but it is interesting to learn that there were hundreds of wars in which the British lost to the Asantes.” Mr. Bell said the manner in which the rich history of the Asantes is interwoven into the culture and arts to tell the story of the Asantes was particularly impressive. “For me, seeing the Kingdom sit in state and judge cases was special and seeing how the beautiful wood carvings are done is also impressive,” he said. He called for a consolidation of the tourist attractions to ensure a full benefit to the country. Mr. Bell said the target should ensure that tourists come, look and buy and not just to see and go. “Some of us are not too happy when we are called tourists because tourists are people who just come and see, but we want to be called ‘guests’ because we love to interact with the people whiles we are here,” he said. Mr. Garry Marchant, a Freelance Journalists, who writes for a magazine for up market travellers, said he felt terrible about the history of the slave trade, knowing that “my forefathers treated Africans like objects and not like fellow humans.” He said he had learnt the history of Ghana from books but the books did not come across to him like the direct interaction with the Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle and the Manhyia Palace. Mr. Marchant said for him the monarchy of the Asante Kingdom epitomises how society functions in Africa, adding that it was special to see what power the Asantehene wielded in the 21st Century. Mr. Nick Easen, a freelance Journalist and Consultant for a number of publications in the UK said the castles and the history of slavery they represented was unique for Ghana, adding that other African countries had rich culture and beaches like Ghana does, but Ghana could capitalise on its uniqueness to become the best tourism destination on the continent. He noted that hospitality, the political environment characterised by good governance stability and security were also pluses for Ghana as other tourism destinations on the continent lacked a full complement of an attractive atmosphere for tourists and investors like Ghana. “I will be telling my readers that Ghana has everything else that the other African countries have, but more hospitality, security, good governance and great castles,” he said. He however admonished the managers of the tourism industry to be more aggressive in the way they market the country’s tourism potential, saying that in Europe “we know a lot about tourist sites in South Africa and Kenya but very little about Ghana even though Ghana has very rich and unique attractions”. Asked how he felt about the slave trade?, He said his forefathers were part of the British stock that exploited Africa, so he shared the sentiments of Africans but did not feel guilty for what the colonialist did. The tour of the Asante Region took the travel writers to Adawomase and Bonwire, both popular Kente weaving suburbs of Kumasi and to Ntonso the home of Adinkra symbols.