We travel not to escape life but to see the other side of life hidden in nature. My journey from Accra to Ho in the Volta Region to continue my education at the OLA Secondary School was the first time I had trekked such long distances, with a scenery of green beauty, vast arable lands and water bodies.
Ghanaâ€™s tourism potential over the years has not been fully harnessed, although a fast-growing sector.
It was recorded as the fourth highest foreign exchange earner in 2016, employing about 531 people from 2015-2018 directly and a further 1,329 people in 2015-2018, indirectly.
Tourist arrivals since 2015 have seen massive depreciation in numbers. From 2016 to 2019 it has only received 1.2 million visitors, while in 2015 alone, the sector received more than one million visitors.
Visits of friends and relatives (VFR) peaked at 14.7 per cent in 2016, and in 2017 dropped to 8.9 per cent.
In 2018, it rose to 12.5 per cent and in 2019 it saw same rise to 13 per cent with business visits standing at 32 per cent, according to the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA).
The trend has more than doubled as a result of the special homecoming event (Year of return) by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo through the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture (MOTAC).
Ghana can boast diverse tourism sub-sectors. They include eco tourism, which is natural conservation.
Eco tourism educates tourists and provides funding for environmental conservation. It directly benefits local economic development and the political empowerment of local communities to foster respect for different cultures.
The Volta Region has such beautiful eco sites dotted along its routes with forest, mountains and wildlife sited around Amedzofe, Kpetoe, Liati Wote, Kyabobo National Park, Tiafi-Atome, Wli Waterfalls, Avu-Lagoon and the Volta Lake.
Cultural tourism on the other hand in the region displays the culture of the people, specifically their lifestyle, history, arts, architecture, religion(s) and other elements help shape their way of life.
Here, one finds creative and energy-draining dances, such as Agbadza, Borborbor, Kinka and Atsagbekor.
There is also kente weaving, an age-old creative pre-occupation.
Popular and colorful Hogbetsotso and the Gbi festivals are notable among people from the region, with farming, fishing and trading as predominant local trades.
The region is known to possess potent medical tourism potential that has drawn a lot of people there.
Tourists believe they must confer with their ancestry to understand themselves and their way of life, believing they obtain breakthroughs by that.
Such medicinal or spiritual healing is believed to be potent and reliable, and visitors refer to it as â€œbu seawo nuâ€ (meaning the adherence to the traditional laws), but sometimes with the corrupted pronunciation, â€˜bonsamâ€™ by some.
Educational Tourism is the fastest growing. It allows for school trips, alternative â€˜spring breakâ€™ travel experiences, study abroad experiences, skills enhancement vacations, educational cruises, as well as seminar vacations.
Food tourism focuses on traditional dishes of the people, exploring the food types.
Food tourism experience
Lately, this aspect of tourism has become a vital component of the experience. Dining out is common among tourists and food is believed to rank alongside climate, accommodation and scenery.
The Volta catch can put on your table succulent dishes like yakayake, abolo, turkey tail, tilapia (akpa), akple and aborbi tardi, best okro soup, tapioca, dzenkple, gari, varied types of bean dishes and more.
You will have dzowe, agbeli kaklo and ayigbe biscuits, palm wine, liha, popularly called â€˜asaanaâ€™ as desserts.
Much more is required to achieve visible results to curb unemployment and its attendants indicators.
Top on the governmentâ€™s agenda is the development of notable tourist attraction sites in the region, particularly the falls and wildlife areas.
Ghanaâ€™s tourism position is unique, with varied attractions that are appealing to continental and international visitors.
There is the need for a vibrant tourism sector by the development of the tourist assets dotted across the length and breadth of the country.
Tourism plays a significant role in delivering sustainable solutions for people, the planet, prosperity and peace as detailed by the 17 SDGs and the corresponding 169 targets.
Tourism as an economic powerhouse is the third highest world category in export earnings in 2015, representing 10 per cent of world GDP, 30 per cent of services exports and one out of every 10 jobs in the world.
The potential to contribute, directly or indirectly to all of the SDGs, narrowing on targets in Goals 8, 12 and 14 for inclusive and sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources must be achieved.
Not just a money hub but also an area that can contribute greatly to the all-round fortunes of nationals, if properly administered to fully serve its purpose in national development.
The writer is a staff of the Information Services Department