The United Nations Organization celebrates every September 27 as World Tourism Day. One remarkable feature of World Tourism Day celebrations is the emphasis we place on the theme for each year’s celebration. This year, Ghana will celebrate the day with the theme “Community Based Tourism, a Driving Force for Poverty Alleviation, Job Creation and Social Harmony.
We could not have chosen a better theme for this year, because of the kind of tourism Ghana represents and the hope to use community-based tourism as a vehicle for rural development. It is worthy to note that almost all community-based tourism projects are ecotourism projects, and ecotourism business fetches over US$80 billion annually, according to the World Ecotourism Society.
Community-based tourism as a strategy for poverty alleviation and rural development has received a lot of attention, and rightly so, since it has proved to be a panacea for rural poverty if it is managed carefully and properly. Fact is the year 2002 was celebrated as International Year of Ecotourism. In the same year, ecotourism dominated discussions during the Earth Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in South Africa. An earlier summit held in Quebec, Canada, declared ecotourism and sustainable tourism as tools for alleviating poverty and saving biodiversity.
There are many community-based tourism projects evolving in parts of the world including Zimbabwe, Peru, Costa Rica, Senegal, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Kenya and Ghana. The CAMPFIRE (Zimbabwe) and the Kakum National Park (Ghana) projects are among the most outstanding in terms of success.
Community-based tourism projects evolve with many advantages if they are well managed even though they may still have some environmental and social costs. They give reasons for the preservation of biodiversity and culture, as they constitute the main tourist attractions. Tourists arrive with the need to be fed with food and beverage, given decent accommodation, and entertained at cinema houses, nightclubs and at drinking spots.
Tourists also collect souvenirs in the form of artifacts, textiles, paintings, fancy crafts, etc. to serve as memoirs, and folks in the community provide these for financial gains so they establish small enterprises to operate these businesses. Farmers are then required to increase produce to feed the emerging industry.
All these generate employment for the youth and additional income for the already employed. The local folks too enjoy all the facilities and activities that come with tourism and these enhance their lifestyle. There is, therefore, a good reason to stay in the community as jobs are available and life becomes more vibrant. Some of the facilities found in the cities such as telecommunication facilities are also introduced to make life more comfortable.
Potential ecotourism sites in Ghana are numerous with 14 being developed. As we celebrate the tourism industry day at Buabeng-Fiema and Kintampo both in the Brong Ahafo region, it is hoped that the occasion will serve as a wake up call for district assemblies, interested entrepreneurs, tour operators and citizens of communities with potential ecotourism attractions to work together to uplift their communities to grasp their share of the big tourism cake, and not wait for crumbs from government’s table.
It is also incumbent on the media to give some attention to the tourism industry in order to promote domestic tourism.
Buabeng-Fiema is a unique attraction because it is the only place on earth where two monkey species, the Campbell’s Mona Monkey and the Geoffrey’s Pied Colubus numbering 1,000 co-exist happily with human beings. Buabeng-Fiema is also a sanctuary to 40 butterfly species and 450 different types of trees including the legendary baobab. Also nearby are the Kintampo cascade falls and the Fuller falls.
Let us meet at Buabeng-Fiema on September 27 and socialize with the monkeys for fun. HAPPY WORLD TOURISM DAY!!! RICHARD KWAME DEBRAH TOURISM ANALYST Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.
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