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Opinions Sun, 20 Mar 2016

Around Ghana in 7 days

These days I am a happy man. A very happy man on account of one thing: at long last the media is categorically talking the tourism language.

It has been a long time but, yes, change is coming. One of my pet hypotheses is what happens if our mass media shines 10 percent of the light they focus on sports to tourism and the arts?

You won’t believe my delight a couple of weeks ago when CITI FM invited me to join a road trek across Ghana that the Accra-based- FM station was organising. They explained that my recently-published books were part of the inspiration for the project.

This was going to be a component of their annual Heritage Month initiative. A media house on the forefront in domestic tourism? It was too good to believe. When I got to know about the details, I had two quick impressions, ambitious but doable.

Starting from March 7, the caravan spent seven days on the road across eight of Ghana’s 10 regions. In all, there were

about 82 ladies and gentlemen on board. The ages of the travellers range from as young as 19 to as experienced as 70-something.

In terms of background, the travel party was made of young professionals, businessmen, software developers, lawyers, medical doctors, engineers, musicians, and oh, yes, public servants. There were also couples, both married and aspiring as well as Miss Tourism Beauty Queens who exhibited toughness in elegance.

Dubbed ‘Heritage Caravan', the road trip brought together these out-going individuals who were eager to experience the allure of Ghana-land in a unique and fun way together. Together, the travel party encountered and savoured the diverse cultural offerings of our lovely country.

Yours Truly and CITI FM’s versatile gem, Kojo Akoto Boateng played the role of tour guide. And I must confess that Kojo, an unrepentant fufu lover, knows and loves his country in an impressively equal measure.

I must admit that it was admirable to see CITI FM team and top management hands-on, in the thick of things and with shoulders to the wheel. I mean even the CEO, Samuel Attah Mensah (Samens), was there some!

Here, one must also mention the pragmatic influence of Jessica Opare Saforo, the workaholism of Philip Kofi Ashong, the thoroughness of trip reporter Kojo Agyeman and the thoughtfulness of our Matron of the Road, Diva Rastina. Of course, back at the studios in Accra, the likes of Bernard Avleh, Nana Ama Agyeman Asante and Richard Dela Sky made sure the rest of the world followed the caravan’s track and activities.

Highlights? That would be hard to say. For me, the entire affair was a dream. Here you have a cross-section of Ghanaians who have dared to venture out of their comfort zones for days on end. Some applied for leave, some asked for that odd week off and others just actually bolted away!

And on the road, it was scene after scene of something new or riveting. Even for those who had done some of the routes, it was time to consider these familiar scenes with a new eye. For others, it was about nostalgic connections. It was an opportunity for learning, fun and meeting people.

Critically, the road trip also exposed the good, the bad and the ugly within our hospitality setting. Across the eight regions, the travelling team saw incidents of pollution of the natural environment. There were roads to attraction sites that certainly needed a facelift. There were tourist sites that were simply bare of any supporting facility.

Some members of the team, who wanted to visit the washroom at attractions such as Boabeng Fiema, were really disappointed. The experience also tested the readiness of some hotels and restaurants for the tourism market. As for customer care, that sounds like the name of an animal to some waiters.

Then there were the wow moments such as the majesty of Adaklu Mountains and the royal magic of the Manhyia Palace. For many patrons, Nzulenzo, and the ‘Cultural night’ in the Northern Region were most unforgettable!

The writer is a Communication and Tourism Specialist. Books he has authored include ‘Romancing Ghanaland- the Beauty of Ten Regions’, Tickling the Ghanaian-Encounters with Contemporary Culture & ‘Harmattan- a Cultural Profile of Northern Ghana.’

Columnist: Kofi Akpabli