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Tourism Celebrating Diversity

Fri, 25 Sep 2009 Source: GNA

A GNA feature by Hannah Asomaning

Accra, Sept. 22, GNA - "Brighten the Corner where you are." This was the slogan of some Christian student groups and it sought to encourage them to do their best wherever they found themselves. However, Yaa, a student, one day remarked that it would have been much easier for her to brighten her corner if she had the power to take all the decisions that affected her and did not need interference at any time whatsoever.

The basis of Yaa's complaint was that there are things she believes and thinks are right but others around her felt otherwise, serving as a tool for conflict between her and others. Perhaps when all people learn to appreciate the need for diversity around them, there will be less conflict and people will learn to tolerate people who have different ideas and views from theirs. That is diversity.

Tourism Celebrating Diversity is the theme for this year's celebration of World Tourism Day, a day set aside by the United Nations World Tourism Organization UNWTO) to look at the contributions of tourism to the economies of the world.

World Tourism Day celebrated every September 27 also looks at creating awareness, that is, the tourism industry is a vital one and has effect on social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide. Ghana is playing host to the celebrations this year, putting the country at the centre of attraction, which is, bringing the world's attention to Ghana's tourism.

Tourism experts from around the world are therefore meeting at the Centre of the World, Ghana, to discuss how tourism is able to celebrate diversity in the world today at the time when there is so much attention on world peace, and especially when many African countries are plagued with wars.

One may ask how tourism helps to celebrate diversity. There is a popular saying, "Travel and See". If everybody were to stay in his own country or his hometown and not travel to any other place or not meet with people of a different cultural background, there would be no need for diversity.

It is tourism that has contributed to people's understanding of diversity. Even within Ghana how an Ewe understands an issue may not be the same as how an Ashanti understands the same issue. The way Muslims bury their dead is different from how Christians bury their dead but it is all burial and the faster Christians and Muslims learn to accept one another's way of doing the same thing the faster the world would see the peace and unity that the United Nations is yearning for.

It is only through travel and tourism that human beings meet people who are different in terms of ideologies or culture and interact with them.

It is through travel that people learn to accept the fact that the fact that someone is a Muslim does not mean he cannot sit and eat together with a Christian.

It is by meeting and respecting other people's values that one can learn to accept the fact that if a person does not like to wear dreadlocks, it does not mean that someone wearing it is evil or not morally right.

Mr Teslim Braimah, Manager of Africana Guest House in Accra, at a symposium organized by the Greater Accra Regional Office of the Ghana Tourist Board, said it was through tourism that we learn not to look down on frog legs eaters.

He said it was important that while Ghana as a country learned to appreciate other peoples' culture Ghanaians also learned to be proud of their own culture and preserve it.

"We have to preserve as much as possible our natural resources like forests and wild animals that are unique to us. We also have to preserve as much as possible our cultural practices and ways of life that are not in conflict with our religion or profession. If we lose our culture we lose our uniqueness and identity. In the end, we may have no diversity to celebrate."

Mr Braimah therefore advised that the tourism sector should be handled in such a way that no individual feels unwanted or discriminated against to promote unity and international peace.

In the tourism industry the tourist is the most important and central actor, he said, advising that it was important to put into practice the proverbial Ghanaian hospitality to make more tourists yearn to visit the country over and over again.

"In addition, every country will want to maximize tourists receipts, this being foreign exchange which can change the lives of its people and country in terms of development," Mr Braimah.

Columnist: GNA