Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Tourism – How have we fared?
By: BELLEY ERNEST WALLACE
TOURISM can be said to be one of the most dynamic motivations of the emerging global economy. Not only does it offer employment to millions of people around the world, but it also provides avenue for growth opportunities to otherwise peripheral, underdeveloped and relegated countries.
The evolution of tourism can be traced back to the 18th and 19th centuries – the era of the Industrial Revolution. During and after the industrial revolution, when machines began to be used, millions of people became involved in manufacturing goods and providing services. These activities resulted in greater earnings and eventually more and high disposable income. The giant and forward leap in technology also contributed to the manufacturing of machines that took over much of the labour-intensive work. This development afforded many people more leisure time hence the emergence of tourism.
Tourism can alleviate poverty through the
creation of small and medium-size tourism businesses.
As tourism creates new jobs, it can equally raise
environmental, cultural and social awareness
In addition, great advances were made in the methods of mass transportation in the mid 1900s. Powerful locomotives carried passengers between major cities, and great steamships sailed them through continents. To cater for the growing traffic, large hotels sprang up near almost all railway terminals and shipping ports.
Air travel became faster and less expensive highways spread across continents, and motor vehicles proliferated coupled with the mass communication industry stimulated the desire of people to travel. Besides, millions of households acquired television sets and became fascinated by pictures of exotic locations fuelling, the urge to travel. All these activities can be said to have precipitated and necessitated and eventually opened the floodgates of tourism.
By the middle of the 20th century, holidays and tourist travel became an accepted part of Western culture and has spread to other continents. In the early 1960’s, the number of international tourists reached 70 million each year. By the mid-1990s, that figure rose to over 500 million. The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) forecast that the number of people traveling internationally would increase from 613 million in 1997 to 1.6 billion by the year 2020.
During the past decades, the global tourism industry expanded rapidly and phenomenally. Tourist resorts and attraction centres sprang up to cater for both international and domestic travelers. Industries not directly associated with tourism equally benefited, since tourists consume vast quantities of food and drinks and spend money on numerous other goods and services.
Today, tourism has become a global phenomenon and serves as income generating venture to the economy of over 125 countries all over the world. Highlighting the benefits that tourism can bring, a 2004 UN World Tourism Organisation news release explained that tourism can alleviate poverty through the creation of small and medium-size tourism businesses. As tourism creates new jobs, it can equally raise environmental, cultural and social awareness.
According to WTO report, International tourism is the world’s largest export earner and an important factor in the Balance of payments (BoP) of many countries. Foreign currency receipts from international tourism reached US $423 billion in 1996, outstripping exports of petroleum products, motor vehicles, tele-communications equipment, textiles or any other product or service. The same report stated that, tourism is the world’s largest growth and expanding industry, and it represented up to 10 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. It is also estimated by the annual report of World Travel and Tour Council (WTTC) that, travel and tourism generates employment for 200 million people and worldwide tourism generates an estimated four trillion dollars annually.
Tourism all over the world is growing at a fast pace of which Ghana is no exception. It is therefore no surprise that, most countries, including even some from the former Soviet Union, are poised to enter the international tourist industry.
It is an undeniable fact that government revenue accruing from tourism is being used to improve infrastructure, provide higher standards of education, and meet other pressing national needs in many countries. Virtually all governments are concerned that their citizens have employment.
The job opportunities generated by tourism to a very large extent has helped to solve unemployment situation in the country.
There cannot be gain-saying the fact that the benefits that a country can derive from tourism are numerous and enormous. Tourism can help contribute to the alleviation of poverty in developing countries thereby bridging the gap between the poor and the rich nations.
Besides the monetary gains derived from tourism, tourism can be considered as part of, and contributing to, worldwide peace movement. In 2004, Francesco Frangialli, the secretary-General of the united Nation (UN) World Tourism Organisation told the presidential conference in the Middle East that tourism and peace are inseparable. According to him, the forces unleashed by tourism are so powerful that they can change apparently irreversible situations and bring about reconciliation where none was considered possible. Certainly tourism has the potential to enhance and enrich a country.
The tourism industry can bring many benefits especially to the developing societies of which Ghana is no exception. However, without proper measures put in place, incurable social, cultural, environmental and socio-economic problems can also crop up as a by-product of tourism. We need to he properly educated on the various impacts of modern tourism which may be detrimental to the social behaviour of the people in a country.
Undoubtedly, one cannot discount the possibility of the psychological, social, economic, cultural and environment impact of tourism and its associated problems which tend to affect the economy negatively.
The phenomenal increase in tourism can lead to the loss of cultural and community identity, create conflict in traditional societies over the use of community-owned land and natural resources, and increase antisocial activities, such as crime and prostitution.
Unchecked and uncontrolled tourism can kill or stunt vegetation when hordes of visitors tramp through conservation areas. Moreover, species can be endangered when tourists collect items such as rare seashells and coral or when local residents gather these items to sell to tourists.
Furthermore, tourists often consume a disproportionate amount of resources at the expense of local inhabitants.
It can also be argued that, while tourists may spend a lot of money to visit developing countries, the irony is that, most of it does not benefit the local population. The World Bank estimates that only 45 per cent of the revenue raised by tourism reaches the host country – most of the money floods back to developed nations by way of overseas tour operators and foreign-owned accommodations.
One issue worth pondering over as we once again celebrate World Tourism Day is the imminent threat posed by tourism to the environment which will eventually culminate into other problems. It is against this background that eco-tourism as a phenomenon from tourism must be embraced and encouraged by all countries.
Eco-Tourism is often more than just an organized tour of a natural site. It has been defined as “purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural history of the environment, taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem, while producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people”.
As Ghana joins other countries all over the world to commemorate World Tourism day today, it should not be observed as an annual ritual where dignitaries will be invited to give good and intellectual speeches amidst pomp and pageantry. We have to use this years’ celebration to take a retrospective look at the tourism sector and assess ourselves and reflect on how we have fared as a nation.
It is therefore incumbent on the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations to provide adequate information on tourists’ attraction sites all over the country. This information will not only serve as a guide to the tourists but will go a long way to aid development and operation of tourism in Ghana and more importantly will promote the much-talked-about rich Ghanaian culture to the outside world.
The writer is an
undergraduate student of the
School of Business of University of Cape Coast.
The Ghanaian Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007 Page: 28