Thursday, April 5, 2007
Tourism in China
… A lesson for Ghana
By: AMA SARPONG
“THE Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it Genesis 2 v 15”. This literally means to make good of what you have as a country. The Garden of Eden of any country is her territory or locality, and China is actually working on what God gave her.
China, a country of 1.3 billion people and is still growing strong. This was made possible by their commitment to Tourism, hard working, creativity and discipline.
A country which 20 years ago was living below the poverty line is now booming and predicted to be the Number 1 in tourism receipts by 2020 with 100 million visitations. Considering their hard work coupled with their friendliness and discipline, the sky is the limit.
China after her economic reforms about 20 years ago diverted her efforts from agriculture to tourism and it has worked. To quote the tour guide who took us through the exploits of China in tourism, “when I was a child there was little food to eat but now, I am on top of the world because of tourism”.
What then has China got and how are her potentials harnessed? The commitment and the manner in which tourism is harnessed for the socio-economic development of the country is what differentiates China from Ghana.
China can boast of two diverse climatic conditions-the northern part is cold, with the southern part being hot and tropical. This in itself promotes domestic tourism as the citizens travel to the other side to experience the winter or go to the south to enjoy the sunshine. It is worthy to note that 70% of her tourism is domestic.
The country is also endowed with a rich cultural heritage and this is what the government and the people have taken advantage of to improve their lot.
The country can boast of numerous tourism sites among them is the highest mountain in the world – Mt. Everest, however, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City (the Museum Palace) which are both UNESCO designated world heritage sites and hot tourism sites could be compared to the numerous castles, and forts dotted along the coast of the country. The difference is that, whereas China has added value to these sites ours are just left in the history books with some of these historical buildings at the verge of collapse.
Hence the mooting of the Joseph Project by the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations that seeks to unite all people of the black descent and encourages our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora to visit the ancestral land at least once in one’s life time should be given the necessary push.
The Summer Palace in China could equally be compared to the Manhyia Palace of the Asantehene. With the added history of the Asantes it could offer more to the tourists, but because Ghana has not marked herself well to the world, the country is not reaping the marvelous benefits that this site could offer.
Tourism depends on good infrastructure, potable water, effective communication facilities, aggressive marking among others. According to sources Mountain Everest in Tibet (China) was not accessible some few years ago. The fact that it cost five times more to construct a road to the site did not deter the Chinese Government to do so. Now Tibet is linked with road and railway making it accessible to the highest mountain in the world possible.
Tourists are looking for the extra-ordinary and the new things in life. People could not believe their ears when they were told that crocodiles at the Paga Crocodile Pond in the Upper East of Ghana could be touched. These are some of the things that invoke visitation to a site. But hoe accessible is the “Paga Crocodile Pond and what facilities are available and how ell known is this site”? Your guess is as good as mine. The solutions to these questions depend on one’s interest and priority.
Creativity is another facet of tourism and this is where China is on top. The Chinese government pumped 1 billion US Dollars into the development of a “Holy City” and one has to pay 20 US Dollars as an entry fee. This site according to sources attracts 100 million people a year. The ‘Holy City’ consists of well manicured flowers and plants into various shapes, magnificent architecture, clean and tidy environment which symbolizes holiness and is climaxed with a temple planted in the sea with a golden statue of a Buddha, an incredible, magnificent, and refreshing site which is the delight of every Buddhist. It is worthy to not that though it cost the government 1 billion dollars to construct, it is now yielding a lot of dividends. Ye de nam ne eyi nam as an Akan proverb literally means, one can only catch fish with fish.
Come to talk of the beaches and you can really affirm that the Chinese are organized and serious with tourism. The sea has been demarcated for different purposes – swimming, cruising, sub-marine, and what have you, with people in frenzy modes all over the place. I mean clean sandy beaches – a far cry from ours which are buried with human excreta.
What is also amazing is how factories are turned into tourist sites. China is blessed with Crystal. Silk, Pearl and various tropical crops like Coconut, Mango, Pineapple, Corn, Pawpaw similar to Ghana. The difference, however, is that there is no room for wastages.
Visit the local factories in China and they will walk you through the production line of the product (processing of the raw material to the finished product) that automatically ends up with a souvenir shop. Unlike Ghana where apart from enjoying the sweet juice and fruit of the Coconut served by shabbily dressed person, in China every part of this tropical plant is utilized. The fibre is used for paper the husk is used to store another alcoholic beverage or made into souvenirs as Jewel Boxes or other containers. One cannot believe the hundreds of candies made from coconut.
Was God unfair to Ghana? Of course not – He gave us coconut and a lot of other fruits that could be processed in abundance, but what do we see – RUBBISH. God has given our destinies into our own hands and we are accountable. The good book tells us in Luke 19 vrs 11 – 27 of the stewards that were given various amounts by their masters and how they were asked to account for them. Whereas some doubled their shares others dug the ground and hid what was given them. It looks as if we have dug the ground and hidden the numerous talents given to us as a nation. What are we doing with our Cocoa, Gold, Palm, Coconut, and all the various fruits that the country is endowed with? We are just wasting resources.
Hence the developing of the Tetteh Quarshie Farm at Mampong Akwapim in the Eastern as a tourist site is a step in the right direction. It is my wish that we also embrace the idea to tie – in the celebration of the Valentine Day with the National Chocolate Day that was launched by the Minister of Tourism and Diasporan Relations Jake Obetsebi Lamptey recently. This will go a long way to boost the returns on the Golden Pod (cocoa) for the socio-economic development of the nation.
Let us wake up as a nation, and take advantage of the benefits that tourism presents to move the nation forward as China and other nations have done.
The ball is in our court.
The Ghanaian Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007. Page: 28