Kente Cultural Tourism

International tourism has grown extraordinarily in the past 50 years and it is currently one of the most pertinent industries in the world in terms of employment creation for individuals and revenue generation for governments. Governments and non-governmental organizations have therefore increasingly sought to invest in tourism driven poverty reduction initiatives by extensively exploring their tourism potential including those relating to culture. Africa suffers from record levels of unemployment that are undermining economic growth and worsening poverty across the continent. In this period of rapid urbanisation and continual call for economic diversification in developing countries, it is imperative that all potential income generating avenues are explored. This paper investigates the relationship between cultural tourism and employment creation. It demonstrates the need to pay more attention to cultural assets due to its potential economic gains. The paper uses a case study from Ahwiaa wood carving village and kente weaving industry at Adanwomase in Kwabre East District in Ghana to showcase the employment creation potential of cultural assets. Using both qualitative and quantitative approaches, about 246 informants participated in the study. The two cultural and touristic activities generated about 14 different employment avenues and employing about 1844 people. Although some of the jobs fetched less income, they constituted the main source of livelihoods for many individuals and households. The paper thus posits that, owing to their economic values, it is prudent for developing nations such as Ghana to package their cultural assets in a way that could attract the attention of the rest of the world.

Introduction

International tourism has grown extraordinarily in the past 50 years and it is currently one of the most pertinent industries in the world in terms of employment creation for individuals and revenue generation for governments. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that international tourist arrivals and receipts will increase appreciably by the year 2020 especially in least developed countries (UNDP, 2011). Governments, development agencies and non-governmental organizations have therefore increasingly sought to invest in tourism driven poverty reduction initiatives (Spenceley & Meyer, 2012). These initiatives often emerge from the assumption that tourism can stimulate marginal economies and promote development through job creation and its subsequent income generation and improvement in livelihoods of the poor (Liu & Wall, 2006). However, each country’s experience with tourism may vary partly because of the many forms tourism could take as well as the unique characteristics and abilities of tourist destinations to attract and accommodate people. For this reason, there is yet a disagreement on the exact contribution of tourism since its impact may sometimes be unreliable and unrecognizable. The promotion of tourism as a key development strategy is therefore sometimes contested (Liu & Wall, 2006). However, evidence and available statistics indicate that, a number of developed nations such as Switzerland, Austria, Australia, and France and developing countries such as Egypt and Thailand have accumulated remarkable social and economic welfare based on profits from tourism (UNWTO, 2008, 2011).
Worldwide, it is estimated that tourism related activities provide about 10 % of the world’s income and employs almost one tenth of the world’s workforce. All considered, tourism’s actual and potential economic impact is astounding (Mirbabayev, 2009; Spenceley & Meyer, 2012). Jobs accruing from tourism ranges from the hospitality business, the managers and staff of tourist sites, direct and indirect transportation jobs, artisans in craft related tourism (Liu & Wall, 2006). Tourism may take many forms including health tourism, seaside tourism, mountain tourism, cultural tourism, event and gastronomic tourism, shopping tourism, and business tourism (Kreag, 2001; Liu & Wall, 2006; NCC, 2004; UNWTO, 2013). Cultural tourism, is the point at which culture—the identity of a society, meets tourism—a leisure activity pursued by people with an interest in observing or becoming involved in that society. Categorically, ‘cultural tourism embraces the full range of  experiences that visitors can undertake to learn what makes a destination distinctive in terms of its lifestyle, its heritage, its arts, architecture, religion, its people and the business of providing and interpreting that culture to visitors’ (Failte Ireland, 2013, p. 4; OECD, 2009)

 

Decades ago, the significance of the tourism industry in Ghana’s development discourse was downplayed. However, the industry currently plays a pivotal role in the economic and socio-cultural development of the nation (Ministry of Tourism, 2012). Ghana’s cultural tourism worth is embodied in her excellent natural, cultural and heritage resources such as historical forts and castles, national parks, a beautiful coastline, unique arts and craft, cultural traditions such as chieftaincy and cultural displays as well as a vibrant lifestyle. It is posited that if these potentials are further developed and properly packaged and marketed, Ghana will benefit immensely through the revenue and employment the sector generates (ibid). According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA, 2005), Africa is suffering from record levels of unemployment that are undermining economic growth and worsening poverty across the continent (UNECA, 2005). Unemployment is a pressing social and economic issue in Ghana. In Ghana, unemployment is highest among the youth who constitute about 33% of population. Available data indicates that people between the ages of 15 and 24 has an unemployment rate of 25.6%, twice that of those between 25-44 years and three times that of the 45-64 age group. Moreover, the government is faced with the challenge of creating decent job opportunities for the youth or to engage them in some form of skills training to improve their chances of employment (Africa Economic Outlook, 2012). It is therefore pertinent that all possible avenues are thoroughly explored in order to minimise unemployment. The Government of Ghana has therefore opted to intensify its efforts to developing tourism as a sustainable engine of growth, as well as a poverty reduction mechanism. These efforts have often been in the form of tourism promotion activities and strategies aimed at exposing the rich culture of Ghana to the rest of the world. It is thus not surprising that tourism contributed about 7% to Ghana’s GDP in 2011 and has created over 300,000 direct and indirect jobs all over the country (Mensah, 2011; VibeGhana, 2012). It is anticipated that, when fully developed and well managed, the tourism industry in Ghana will not only generate revenue and create employment but also preserve the environment and cultural values, curb rural-urban drift, promote investments and build cross-cultural relations (Ministry of Tourism, 2012).

This paper investigates the relationship between cultural tourism and employment creation. It demonstrates the need to pay more attention to the potential of cultural tourism especially in developing and least developing economies due to its economic gains. The paper uses a case from the wood carving at Ahwiaa and kente1 weaving at Adanwomase in Kwabre East District in Ghana to showcase the employment creation potential of cultural assets when attention is given to the sector. The paper also discusses the challenges and the way forward for cultural tourism. The study District is one of the famous cultural tourism destinations in the country and in the Ashanti region. Currently, the main tourist attractions in the district are culturally related activities including making and sale of traditional textiles, such as Kente and Adinkra, famous traditional shrines such as Antoa as well as woodcrafts (Kwabre East District, 2010).

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