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Fri, 05 Apr 2024 Feature Article

Unlocking the tourism potential of Volta Region through AfCFTA

Unlocking the tourism potential of Volta Region through AfCFTA
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The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) presents a monumental opportunity for the growth and integration of the African continent. Beyond its economic implications, AfCFTA opens a gateway for cultural exchange, tourism, and the flourishing of creative arts. In this article, I will explore how Ghana, particularly the Volta Region, can strategically brand and position itself to harness the immense potential of AfCFTA for the development, promotion, and marketing of its tourism, creative arts, and cultural offerings.

A Powerful Growing Industry:
Global tourism is a multi-trillion dollar industry. In 2019, total global tourism industry generated about $ 9.2 trillion dollars, roughly 10% of the total global economy of about $ 94 trillion dollars. That's not a small economic sector at all on the global scene.

According to statistics, international tourists arrival in 2019 was about 1.5 billion with a total revenue of about $2.9 trillion. Africa alone received over 69 million international visitors and generated over $ 440 billion dollars in revenue.

In Ghana, the year 2019 was historic, with the Year of Return hitting home. Over 1.1 million international visitors came to Ghana, the first time Ghana hit over one million tourists. That year also saw Ghana making total receipts of $ 3.3 million dollars from international tourist arrivals.

If these facts and figures are anything to go by, then AfCFTA presents a far bigger opportunity for Ghana and, for that matter, Volta Region to leverage on.

AfCFTA as a Catalyst for Continental Integration:

AfCFTA's primary objective is to create a single market for investment, capital, technology, human resource, goods and services, promoting free movement of all these and fostering economic collaboration among African nations. This will eliminate trade barriers and protocols, thereby making it easy for movement of goods and services across the continent. This also creates a conducive environment for tourism, creative arts and cultural exchange, making it imperative for regions and countries to highlight their unique cultural identities to attract visitors and consumers.

Tourism Potential of Volta Region:
The Volta Region, endowed with breath-taking landscapes, historical sites, and vibrant cultural traditions, stands as a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. To leverage AfCFTA effectively, Ghana, and specifically the Volta Region, must strategically position itself to showcase the following tourism potentials as the Gateway to Ghana from its population booming and fun seeking behemoth to the east, Nigeria and beyond. The region's natural wonders, cultural uniqueness, historical links, colonial architectural heritage are key attractions for an increasingly interconnected African market and beyond. The region must not only be the land space to cross to Accra and beyond in order to enjoy visiting Ghana. It must be a region to visit too when one arrives in Accra by air in order to really see and claim that one has visited Ghana.

Wondrous Landscapes:
The Volta Region boasts diverse landscapes and reliefs, from the pristine coastal beaches and serene Volta River and the Volta Lake, the largest artificial lake in the world by land size, to the numerous picturesque waterfalls such as the Wli, Tagbo and Amedzorfe falls, to the mountain peaks like Gemi, Adaklu with the highest peak in Ghana, Afadjato; and the luxuriant, moist semi-deciduous forest. These natural wonders present opportunities for water sports, eco-tourism, adventure tourism, leisure and wellness retreats. Volta Region can capitalise on these attractions and attracts great numbers of tourists to the region.

Cultural Festivals:
The region hosts colourful festivals such as the Hogbetsotsoza, Agbogboza, Teza, Sometutuza, Agbamevorza, Gidukorza, Glimetotoza, Apenortoza, Ayimagonuza, Dzawuwuza, Sasaduza, Amuza, Tortsotsoza etc., celebrating epic and specific events in the history of the various ethnic groups in the region. By promoting these festivals, Volta Region can attract cultural enthusiasts from across the continent to the region and boost its tourism offer.

Historical Sites:
With sites such as the Slave Museums at Adafienu and Hedzranawo, the Slave Market at Atorkor, the Slave Home at Ablotsivia/Klikor, the Fort Prinzenstein at Keta, the Cape St Paul Lighthouse at Woe, the German Historical Sites at Kpando, Amedzofe, Kpedze and Ho, which are all reminders of the region's historical significance in the slave trade, and the colonial links, Volta can attract history buffs, researchers interested in exploring Africa's slave and colonial heritage.

Eco-tourism Sites:
With the high number of the eco-tourism sites in Ghana, Volta Region can attract nature enthusiasts to the region. Notable eco-tourism attractions include: Wli Waterfalls, the highest in West Africa, Tagbo Falls, Tsatsadu Falls, Aflambo Falls, Amedzofe Falls now with a convoy walkway, Tafi Monkey Sanctuary, Keta-Angaw-Avu Lagoon Complex Ramsar Site, Kalalpa Game Reserve, Kyabobo National Park, Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary, the Volta River Estuary. All these can meet world class standards to attract thousands of visitors when given the needed attention.

Natural Wonders:
Volta Region can also boast of some of the finest landforms in its limestone hills with the formation of stalagmites and stalactites in the forms of caves,and grottos. Prominent ones are: the grottos of Kpando, the ancestral home caves of Likpe, Nyagbo, Logba, and the caves and iron workings of Akpafu. These are all tourist attractions that Volta Region can maximise under the opportunities offered by AfCFTA under tourism.

Creative Arts and Culture Development:

AfCFTA facilitates the exchange of goods and services, including cultural products. To tap into this, the Volta Region can leverage on specific areas with comparative advantages, namely:

Cultural Exchanges:
Establish partnerships with artists and cultural institutions across the continent for collaborative projects, fostering a rich blend of diverse African art forms. This can be made possible through the instrumentality of Ghana Embassies and high commissions abroad and those of other African countries in Ghana.

Cultural Heritage Preservation:
Implement initiatives to preserve and promote indigenous arts and crafts, ensuring the authenticity of the region's cultural offerings. Today, African countries are stealthily losing their cultural heritage through the influence and infiltration of other cultures. Volta Region must seriously guard against the adulteration of its unique culture that has served it until now and be able to present it to the world in its pure and pristine form. Therefore, the wide varieties of drum and dance forms in the region must be promoted as performing arts to entertain tourists. The wide varieties of sumptuous food from the region must be promoted too.

Promotion and Marketing Strategies:
Digital Presence: Develop a robust online presence through dedicated websites and social media platforms, showcasing the region's cultural, artistic, and tourism offerings. This must be professionally done in order to attract the viewership and followership needed to create a buzz about the region's various touristic, artistic and cultural offerings.

Collaborative Marketing Campaigns:
Collaborate with other African nations to create joint marketing campaigns that highlight the continent's cultural diversity and draw attention to specific attractions in the Volta Region. Promotional and aggressive marketing campaigns should be pushed through in African magazines, and online portals in order to drive the 'Volta Brand' and thereby positioning the region for real business.

Infrastructure Development:
In order to accommodate the anticipated influx of tourists and to enhance the overall experience, the Volta Region should invest in infrastructure development. This includes upgrading transportation and communication networks, ensuring quality accommodations, and establishing visitor centres that provide information on local attractions. There is also the need to train the human resource in the industry to meet international standards. This includes hospitality actors like hotel and resort owners, the travel and tour operators and agencies, catering services providers such as restaurants and other eateries, tour guiding services providers, transport operators. e.g., bus and car rental services providers and taxi drivers.

Sustainable Tourism Practices:
In line with global trends, sustainable tourism practices should be integrated into the development plans. Emphasizing eco-friendly initiatives and community engagement not only preserves the region's natural beauty but also appeals to conscientious travellers seeking responsible tourism experiences. This should be done with the local communities who are close to these attractions. These communities should be educated to know that they are part of the tourism sector through employment and income generating activities in their communities and, therefore, they can and must contribute in making it sustainable.

Development of A Comprehensive Strategic Tourism Plan:

In order to drive all these ideas to a successful realisation, there is the need for a Strategic Tourism Development Plan. This plan should be looking at a five-year horizon with a goal for the tourism in the region, specific objectives, carefully thought out strategies, a solid action plan, measurable outcomes, an effective Monitoring and Evaluation system in place, and a Destination Management Organisation, and a dedicated vehicle to drive the dream to success.

The AfCFTA presents a golden opportunity for Ghana's Volta Region to position itself as a hub for tourism, creative arts, and cultural exchange. By capitalizing on its unique offerings and strategically aligning with the goals of continental integration, the region can unlock unprecedented economic and cultural benefits. As stakeholders collaborate to implement these strategies, the Volta Region stands poised to become a shining example of how AfCFTA can catalyse holistic development and unity across the African continent.

Through effective, aggressive promotion and marketing, strategic tourism development initiatives, and country-to-country collaborations, the region can become a beacon, attracting visitors and contributing to the broader goal of an integrated and prosperous African continent. It's possible!

BY Joel Degue
Director, Sunny DestyNations Management Ltd (www.sunnydestynations.com)

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