Monday, August 3, 2015

ARTICLE: Disaster in Paradise? Looking beyond Bunso: Towards securing our tourism attractions

The  greatest desire of any  tourist/holiday maker is to have fun and relaxation in a safe place away from home. To that end almost all tourism destinations present themselves as idyllic places where the patron can feel relaxed and safe. Thus  the tourism attraction would be the last place a person would expect to be exposed to harm . That is why  this week has been a rather bad one for tourism.  First it was the deadly terrorist attack in Sousse, Tunisia, then,  our own Bunso Canopy Walkway also gave way. The first of them was a security issue while the incident in Ghana centred on safety. Either way, they each have the potential to hurt the tourist trade in their respective countries.

Research has shown there is a very strong positive relationship between safety/security and the fortunes of tourism.  Tourism literally thrives on safety and security.

For example, the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) indicates that  international tourist arrivals in  its  Middle East Region (including Egypt and Tunisia)    declined by 8.4 percent to 54.8 million in 2011 – a year after the  Arab Spring.  Yet, in 2010 the previous year,  arrivals to the region had  grown by  nearly 15.  The effect is even more graphic  when the figures for the two countries are isolated from the rest. Experts generally believe that the 2010  revolts caused  at least    a 30-40% decline in  demand for the two countries in subsequent years.   In fact, in Tunisia, tourism arrivals dropped by a third in 2011 and the associated financial losses can only be imagined. The same can be said of the effect of the 9/11 attacks on the New York tourism industry which was estimated to lose some 1-2 billion dollars in business in associated  economic activities.

An even more ominous    threat to global tourism is that posed by terrorism. The stark reality is that   a pattern is slowly taking shape in which tourism facilities are increasingly becoming targets for terrorist attacks.  Attacks from England, Bali, Indonesia, France, Jordan, Egypt, Kenya, Peru, The Philippines, and Mexico and, more recently, Tunisia have shown this trend.  This year alone Tunisia has witnessed two such horrific  incidents,  just three months apart from each other - one at a museum and the  more recent one at a popular tourist beach.

 It therefore goes without saying that countries that wish to gain from tourism must consciously make efforts to protect the trade.  For a country that is so heavily reliant on international visitors, Ghana cannot afford to be having such avoidable  safety oversights or security breaches  at its attractions.  It is against this backdrop that  we  should take what happened in Bunso as seriously as we can and also institute structures that can avoid a terrorist attack on our tourism facilities.  

It is good to read that the Ghana Tourism Authority is in the process of developing a Legislative Instrument that will empower them to  enforce safety and security at our attraction sites.

This is because  in truth,  Bunso is not the only unsafe and insecure attraction in the country.  In fact save for a few arrangements for police presence on crowded days, our attraction facilities hardly have any security cover.  Neither are there any strong safety measures that can protect patrons from unintended harm.

Moving forward the  Ministry of Tourism  as a policy formulator must initiate processes  towards the crafting of a tourism safety and security policy.    Such a policy would definitely have to address pertinent questions such as: How safe should our attractions/facilities ? What are the likely sources of harm/threat (unintended or intentional)
·         What warning systems can we put in place to  monitor and react to such threats?
·         Who manages these systems and how will they be funded?
·         What systems can we  institute to  ensure these facilities comply with  prescribed safety measures?
·         Who are the key stakeholders and what roles do they play?
·         How often must equipment at attraction sites  be maintained or changed?
·         What is the carrying capacity of our tourist facilities, how are they determined and  who enforces adherence to  them?
    How best can  the tourism sector  and the security apparatus collaborate to provide  safety/security (especially from terrorism)

Bunso must  serve as the  wake-up call for us as a destination to  create security structures and systems  for all tourism attractions  in Ghana.

Prof. Kwaku Boakye

The writer is the  Managing  Researcher at the Tourism Research and Advocacy Centre- a tourism think tank based in  Cape Coast.


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