The Volta Region presents Ghana with a vastly untapped tourism goldmine capable of transforming the region's economy and its overall contribution to national income when fully developed. "Just everything about the region offers an attraction", Mr Charles Osei Bonsu, the Acting Deputy Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Ghana Tourist Board remarked at the seventh Volta Regional Tourism awards night in Ho on Friday under the theme, "Rewarding Excellence in Tourism".
"The Ministry of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City", (now Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Affairs) "and the Ghana Tourist Board recognize the region's beautiful landscape, cleaned environment of the towns, numerous spectacular eco-tourism sites and the rich cultural heritage epitomized by Kente weaving and its intricate designs, choral and traditional music, dances and festivals", Mr Bonsu said.
Lorneh Lodge at Tegbi in the Keta District came tops as the 2-3 Star Hotel of the year, including 14 other award winners among whom was Mr Timothy Dzamboe of the Daily Graphic as the Travel Writer of the Year. Each award winner received a plague, a citation and other forms of prizes.
"Realising the region's immense tourism potentials, the Ministry of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City under its 5-year Strategic Plan is vigorously promoting Community Based Eco-Tourism development in the Volta Region", Mr Bonsu announced.
"Out of the 14 eco-tourism projects in Ghana being developed, marketed and promoted, the Volta region has the greater number and these include Amedzofe Mountain, Tagbo Falls near Hohoe, Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary and Xavi Bird Watching Sanctuary", He said.
Other areas marked for massive development include the Wli Waterfalls in the Hohoe District, the most visited eco-tourism site in the country, the Kpetoe Kente Village, Adaklu Mountain Eco-tourism Sites both in the Adaklu-Anyigbe District, Shari Hilltop Unique Village in the Nkwanta District and the Bowiri Lacham Village in the Jasikan District. Mr Bonsu said visitor arrivals to the region increased from 1,064 in 2002 to 16,017 in 2004 during which period earnings from such visits jumped from 55 million cedis to 621 millioin cedis.
The period 2002-2004 also saw investments in social amenities, improvement in social welfare services and employment creation. In a brief report, Mr William Dzidzornu of the Volta Region branch of the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) said total tourism traffic into the region rose from 0.5 percent in the 1980s to 10 percent now. The number of hotels in the region also increased from five in the 1970's to 65 currently.
He said as part of strategies to promote domestic tourism in the region, the Board would encourage the formation of tourism clubs in schools and hoped hotels would institute special rates for such clubs. In a keynote address, Mr Joseph Nayan, deputy Volta regional Minister cautioned that immense and diverse though the region's tourist attractions are, its comparative advantages in cultural tourism, festivals, history, heritage sites, eco-tourism and unique biodiversity must be given priority attention.
Alongside the development of these attractions should be a vigorous campaign to raise the consciousness of the people to the importance of environmental cleanliness as an important instrument of tourism promotion, he said.
Mr Nayan said since some aspects of tourism impact negatively on the recipient destinations measures needed to be taken to promote and safeguard the positive gains and minimize the negative ones for the benefit of both present and future generations. Mr Kwabena Danquah, Chairman of the Volta Hotels Association called on those in the tourism business from the region but located elsewhere to cross over to the region to invest in the development of its tourism potentials.
He wondered why such people were shying away from vast opportunities to invest in the region as their contributions towards the development of their cradle.