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The new phase of tourism and visitation in Kwahu

The tourism industry has emerged as the most sustainable economic venture all over the world. It embraces visitations relating to its sub-categories, which include ecotourism, agritourism, conferences, educational, wellness, religious and safari among others.

The industry contributes to the economy of nations not only through receipts relating to visitations and arrivals but also investments in hotels, restaurants and fast foods, car rentals, craft and artifacts, and souvenirs.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization has indicated that global tourism has grown exponentially over the past six decades and that international tourist arrivals are expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. In 2019 world tourism activity grew by 3% – 4%. Since the mid-80s, Ghana has seen phenomenal growth in the tourism industry and it is now the fourth largest foreign exchange earner, after cocoa, gold, oil and gas. Tourist arrivals have increased consistently over the years.

The Medium Term Expenditure Framework (2019 – 2022) of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture estimated international arrivals to increase by 5% from 980,141 persons in 2017 to 1,029,148.05 in 2018 while corresponding receipts was expected to increase by 5.1 % from US$1,854.8m in 2017 to US$1,947.5m in 2018, and contributing 4.9% to GDP.

The major intervention for the growth in the tourism industry in Ghana has been Governments’ efforts at creating the enabling environment for the private sector to invest in tourism, arts and culture and related businesses such as hotels, restaurants, curio shops and music enterprises. With respect to Domestic Tourism the Ministry has been working in collaboration with Tourist Clubs and the Tourism Society of Ghana (TOSOGHA) to promote visits to tourist sites.

Other programmes that have, and are, been undertaking to boost local tourism include the Chocolate Day (14th February), Emancipation Day Celebration and PANAFEST at Assin Manso and Cape Coast respectively (July/August), the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” (marking the 400 years since enslaved Africans arrived in the United States), and the Paragliding Festival as part of the Easter festivities in Kwahu.

The Kwahu traditional area occupies the northern part of the Eastern Region of Ghana and covers an area of about 51,520 sq. km. The area can conveniently be divided into 3 distinct geographical regions: the south-west lowlands; the plateau region which slopes gently into the Afram River basin (an arm of the Volta Lake), and the Afram Plains. From the southern lowlands the land rises sharply to an average height of about 580m on the plateau, where the most important towns are located. Abetifi, for example, is noted to be one of the highest settled points in the country. The highest peak is Mt. Odweanoma (780m).

The varied topography of Kwahu (and the way of life of the people) present the area as one of the most diverse regions in the country. The area is endowed with a variety of tourism attractions some of which are the prominent escarpment revealing horizontal beds of sandstones; the several high points (particularly the summit of Mt. Odweanoma) which offer panoramic view of many places; the Oworobong and Oku-Abena water falls; the impressive rock structures of Kotoso and Amartey, and the famous Buruku inselberg near Tafo; the luxuriant forest at the foothills of the Kwahu mountains and several traditional grooves.

Other attractions include the bracing climate of the plateau region; the historic sites such as the Ramseyer Centre at Abetifi; the beautiful towns with magnificent buildings; the warm hospitality of the people and their famous Easter festivities and the graceful funerals.

Kwahus resident outside their home territory maintain strong ties with their roots. They cherish the concept of “double home” and strive to put up houses in their hometowns. They visit home regularly to participate in funeral and other festive occasions particularly during Easter. The popular “Kwahu Easter” is characterized by many festivities including fundraising to support community development.

Since the launch of the first “Ghana Hang and Paragliding Festival” which was staged on the Kwahu Mountains (Mt. Odweanoma) in March 2005, the Kwahu Easter has assumed a national and international character. The paragliding event has helped popularize the Kwahu Easter Holidays and placed Kwahu on the international tourist map. People from all walks of life visit Kwahu during Easter. Apart from the fund-raising programmes, individual towns also organize educational competitions, medical screening and health walks among others.

The increase in visitations to Kwahu has also been spurred on by growth in the tourism related enterprises. The past ten years has seen the emergence of a number of hotels including Rock City, a 300-room 4 Star Hotel (at Nkwatia) Freedom Hills Hotel (at Nkwatia), Modak Royal Hotel (at Pepease), Rojo Hotel (at Nkawkaw), Wags Hotel (at Obomeng), Ohene Nana Klassic (at Mpraeso), Nyarkoa Ba Nyarko Royal Hotel, a 3-star hotel (at Obo) and several others.

There are also other developed attractions for adventure such as the Twenedurase Mystical Cave (Nkofieho Tourist Site) and the Abetifi Stone Age Park, and many restaurants and eateries. A recent trend is the attraction for hosting conferences by the hotels, particularly Rock City.  It is expected that the development of the airport at Nkwantanang-Ahinase in the Kwahu East District, for which permit has been granted by the EPA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Kwahu Airport Limited, will serve as a further boost to tourism development in Kwahu.

These laudable initiatives by private individuals and entrepreneurs mark a departure from the conventional state-led drive and participation in the industry.  The case is also made for community participation and involvement in developing the many potentials which have been cited above, including water sport on the Afram arm of the Volta Lake.  An assessment and evaluation of tourism potentials in the area by the Ghana Tourist Board (now Ghana Tourism Authority) in 2002 noted that, the mountain slopes offer one of the best eco-tourism destinations for holiday makers.

However, it is important for the Local Authorities and the Forestry Commission to take steps to halt the gradual but imminent destruction of the forest of the foothills and along the slopes of the mountains in order to minimize erosion, prevent landslides and conserve biodiversity. The value of the forest could also be enhanced by the introduction of some animal species including monkeys.

With respect to the Easter festive period, it is noteworthy to mention that the recent upgrading works on the roads in some of the towns should help ease vehicular traffic build-up.

In all, it is important that the local authorities, investors, event organizers, other stakeholders and the citizenry in general maximize the trade-offs from the tourism industry and visitations, institute measures to sustain visitor interests in the area and manage the adverse impacts of the tourism industry.

It is remarkable that the Traditional Authorities keep appealing to holiday makers to avoid the excesses with respect to indecent and offensive dressing and inappropriate lifestyles during the Easter holiday period. Finally, it is suggested that any planned overall development agenda for the Kwahu traditional area should make Tourism a key component.

 

>>>The Author is a Senior Research Fellow/ lecturer with the Institute for Environment and Sanitation studies at the University of Ghana Legon. He is a Geographer with special interest in Environmental Resource Utilisation and Conservation, Local Markets and Domestic Trade, Settlement Dynamics and Urbanisation, Sanitation and Waste Management.  He is a native of Nkwatia- Kwahu. bdofori@staff.ug.edu.gh

 

The Co-author is a Professional Banker with experience in Banking operations, Customer Experience, process flow drafting and Internal controls. She is an Etena from Nkwatia and currently a Zonal Manager Branch controls with CBG.

 

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