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One of the top 10 places to visit in 2012

Article - September 13, 2012
Ghana has already grabbed the attention of European, American, and African travellers thanks to its bountiful beauty
In a country with endless sunshine, 335 miles of sandy coastline and rich cultural and historical sites, Ghana’s potential for a booming tourism industry is huge, especially during this moment of sustained political stability and economic boom.

“In Ghana, we are blessed with a diversity of tourism products. If you talk about arts and culture, we have our very own festivals, music, dances, food and textiles,” says Ghanaian Minister of Tourism, Akua Dansua, praising the variety of types of tourism in the country including eco, educative and domestic. “The stability, the environment, the weather and the hospitable people are all significant selling points.”

This appeal is not going unnoticed worldwide: Ghana was named among the top 10 places to visit in 2012 by Frommers, citing its history, beaches and culture as unique points of interest.
A cultural site of particular note is the Nzulezu village, a candidate for nomination on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list, which is an entire settlement built on stilted houses over Lake Tadane in the western region of Ghana.

“The link between tourism and environment is crucial. Ecotourism is a strategy of promoting tourism while managing the environment.”

Akua Dansua,
Minister of Tourism

Also of great historical importance is the city of Cape Coast, the departure point for the highest number of African slaves sent to the New World and one of the stops on President Barack Obama’s Africa tour in 2009.

The country also enjoys numerous natural resources such as Mole Park, the largest national park in Ghana where visitors see herds of elephants grazing near a waterhole, antelopes running through the fields, or monkeys swinging between the trees. Aside from other smaller national parks throughout the country, tourists can visit waterfalls, lakes and traditional villages.

With so much natural richness, one of the Ministry of Tourism’s main objectives is to develop a rich tourism sector while protecting its environment.

“The link between tourism and environment is crucial,” explains Ms. Dansua, highlighting the Collaborative Actions for Sustainable Tourism (COAST) project, which currently protects the Ada Sea region, which home to some rare species of turtles and mangrove farms. “Ecotourism is a strategy of promoting tourism while managing the environment.”

The COAST project also strives to train locals as tour guides, providing them with job opportunities and helping the native population see the potential their living environment has for attracting tourists.
Ms. Dansua additionally points to domestic tourism as a means for national unity and cohesion, highlighting the importance for Ghanaians to move beyond their immediate environment to understand the rest of the country.

“At the end of the day as Ghanaians we need to understand our country better before we can even invite somebody else to enjoy it with us,” she says, pointing to the Nzulezu village and Ankasa forest reserve as potential tourist destinations.

Ghana has experienced a rise in domestic tourism in recent years and expects an increase of international visitors in the coming ones.

Recognizing the vast possibility for attracting more tourists, the Ministry of Tourism is working to further develop an environment conducive to handle a future influx, such as negotiating with airlines for more affordable flights to the country and facilitating the tourist visa process using online technology. Working with local businesses, the government is also prioritizing budget accommodation in close proximity to the main tourist sites, anticipating further growth.

“Tourism plays a key role in most world economies,” says Adrian Landry, General Manager of Ghana’s Labadi Beach Hotel. “Every dollar spent by tourists in the country is not only going to the hotel directly, but it reaches the government and personnel who are being employed. We believe that tourism in Ghana will grow as infrastructure improves and become a major component of our GDP.”