TOURISM RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY CENTRE (TRAC)
COMMENT ON MYJOYONLINE STORY ON TOURISM AND POVERTY IN ELMINA
A recent story posted on myjoyonline on 24th October, 2017 about the seeming mismatch between the presence of the highly patronized Elmina Castle and the pervasive poverty in the Elmina township makes interesting reading. Though the information put out by myjoyonline may not be necessarily new, it brings home the painful reality that after more than 15 years of being highlighted, very little has been done to arrest the situation. Scientific studies, some dating back to more than a decade ago (e.g. Teye et. al. (2002), Arthur & Mensah 2006; Koutra 2007, Boakye, 2008; 2013) have pointed to the same fact. The chief of the town, Nana Conduah is always in the news for protesting the same worrying situation. The reality is that in spite of the fact that the Elmina township receives an annual average of at least 75000 visitors to the castle, there is very little to show for this heavy patronage in terms of visible socio-economic benefits.
There is definitely something wrong and TRAC believes that this situation pertains not only in Elmina, but also Cape Coast, Mfuom and many other communities near major tourism attractions due to poor infrastructure, lack of entertainment facilities (absence of Night life), poor accommodation facilities/services, the issue of attraction ownership, just to mention a few. It must be noted that the presence of attraction(s) on its own is not a recipe to reap the full benefits of tourism as tourism has its negatives (leakages, high cost of living, inflation, etc) which when not properly check could lead to situations like what is happening in Elmina. These failures are simply a reflection of a defective tourism policy regime as well as commitment on the part of policy implementers.
Tourism is and should be about making lives better for all actors: the tourists, the business providers, the local authorities and the local communities. Though existing documents such as the national tourism development plan, strategic plan 2005-2007; marketing plan 2009-2012 suggest so, available evidence like the one being discussed points to the fact that there is little or no conscious effort to integrate host communities in tourism development.
Such a situation is dangerous and it is only a matter of time that the community will express their frustrations in a more aggressive way. Recently there has been a rise in anti-tourist sentiment in major European cities such as Milan, Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Mallorca and Bilbao suggesting that host communities are now beginning to weigh their options and once they find tourism not be beneficial, they protest in various forms. If Doxey’s irritation index is anything to go by, then there is a likelihood that these protests may be expressed in a more violent manner if the situation is not addressed soon.
Government must act fast and now. There is the need to immediately craft and implement a policy and action plan that outlines ways in which the host communities can be integrated into tourism and vice-versa. Such a policy is expected to address issues such as community sensitization, as well as avenues for capacity building and ways in which tourism related revenues can be invested in social infrastructure. Also, the creation of tourism enclaves around major attraction around the country would also be an effectively control leakage and boost the multiplier effect of tourism expenditure in the local tourism economy to eradicate poverty in tourism dependent local communities to avoid getting to antagonism state of IRRIDEX MODEL by Doxey. Lastly, the introduction of extra activities in host communities such as night life (night clubs and pubs), community tours, traditional games among others will prolong the stay of tourists at communities rather than rushing back to the cities where they are based.
We at TRAC believe with the right policies, sensitization, total commitment, right human resource and sense of urgency, tourism can become the tool to promote the total transformation of Ghana’s economy and poverty eradication.