What ado about tourism?
By: ACKAH ANTHONY
FOR years now, the authorities have siezed the opportunity offered by any occasion to drum home a commitment to making tourism the country’s highest foreign exchange earner in the shortest time possible.
This stems from the realization that elsewhere in the world, countries continue to reap fortunes from their tourism. As a matter of fact, forward looking countries lose no opportunity to turn tourism into money through the judicious management of nature-endowed gifts that translate into tourism attractions.
So, all the time that we have been shouting from rooftops about our burning desire to develop tourism to a level that will attract both foreign and domestic tourists, I had assumed that we were on course, and that sooner, rather then later, we would have our share of the global tourism cake.
But after a recent visit to the Zenga Crocodile pond and the Pik Woro Slave Camp, both at Paga in the Upper East Region, I am compelled to revise my thinking and rather conclude that his country in not serious about developing its vast tourism potential.
Any visitor to the Crocodile Pond will be met with nothing but huge disappointment by what he will see there. Disappointment Number One is the ‘miserable’ nature of the 0.6 kilometres distance to the site off the main Paga-Burkina Faso highway.
Disappointment Number Two is the absolute lack of development of the pond area. The place is worse now that when I last visited there over 30 years ago. For example, one would expect to see at least a proper reception centre manned by well-trained guides well versed in the history of the pond.
What’s more, it would be ideal to have a short documentary film about the pond that now has 150 crocodiles, with the biggest and oldest one being 89-years old.
Since the crocodiles mainly feed on chicken bought by visitors to the pond, I wonder why the District Assembly has not deemed it fit all these years to have a mini poultry farm attached to the facility. The practice now whereby individuals sell their own chicks to visitors for GH¢3 each is not right because it does not reflect vision in relation to the management of this rare tourism facility.
The District Assembly has not been able to build chalets for the use of visitors and even more strange is the fact that that chalets built by the Upper East Regional Administration under the indefatigable Kofi Charlie (Ampofo) to serve the purpose have been sold off.
I am honestly hard put to understanding why the Member of Parliament for Ghana-Paga, Hon. Abuga Pele, can’t use part of his MPs fund to tar the 0.6 km road and help in providing the facilities mentioned above. If these have not been done because of the alleged reluctance of the traditional authorities to cede control over the place, the differences should be sorted out in the interest of the pond and the country in general.
The story of neglect is the same at the Pik Woro Slave Camp which is two kilometers off the Paga-Burkina Faso border road. The camp, used by notorious slave traders, Samori, Babatu and Baboa as a site for keeping slaves until they were taken to the Salaga slave market in the Northern Region, has some unique features that will fascinate every visitor to the place.
Located within a serene rock setting, one can’t resist being awestruck by two things in particular at the camp. First is the number of cavities one finds in the rocks that served as bowls for the slaves during meals time. The wonder of it all was how the hollowing wa neatly done.
The second fascination of the place is the water found somewhere in the rocks that served the purposes of drinking and bathing of the slaves during the days of Samori and Babatu. The colour of the water has changed only because of its disuse over the years.
Like the Crocodile pond, the Pik Woro camp can be turned into a great tourist site for maximum patronage. It is also in urgent need of an information centre and chalets for the comfort of visitors. Here too, the District Assembly has to do something about the situation.
Still in the Northern Region, the urgent need to work on the road that leads to the Mole Game Park need not be stressed. Movement to and from the place must be made easy for tourists.
The tomb of Babatu which is in the Yendi District is also another site that can be developed, although there is no denying the fact revulsion could be stirred among some visitors, particularly the notoriety of Babatu. Even so, it is a heritage that must be preserved for posterity.
In the case of Babatu’s tomb, it is known that the Yendi Municipal Assembly has always expressed the desire to develop the place into a tourism site, but Babatu’s descendants have resisted that. I believe stakeholders of the tourism industry should join the Municipal descendants into accepting the development of the site.
What is happening to tourism sites in the north appears to reflect a general malaise about other sites in the country, Lake Bosomtwe and Nzulezo in Nzema being cases in point. In short, we are joking about a serious matter that should rather engage utmost attention.
We should have thought seriously about developing our tourism potential alongside the building of stadia and other facilities the very time we won the bid to host Ghana 2008, but we only focused on football to the detriment of tourism.
I know one thing for sure; People who will be coming for Ghana 2008 and will want to visit tourism sites will be disappointed by what they will see.