It has been a wild year to say the least. The year started off with news of wildfires ravaging Australia. Next, COVID-19 hit the world hard and later the world suddenly decided to pay attention to the plight of Black people. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd so much of what black people have been saying over the past few years, decades and centuries about not just overt acts of racism but subtle microaggressions (which, to be honest, can be very macro), gaslighting and British imperial amnesia (regarding the slave trade and acts of genocide perpetrated by the British government) is finally being heard by the white masses and other people of colour who were hitherto unbothered by racist acts that they felt did not directly affect them or concern them. How times have changed.
I have found myself reflecting on a lot during this time, especially travel. As many of my friends and family are lamenting cancelled trips and the inability to confidently book any city breaks or far-flung escapes for the foreseeable future, I have been increasingly thinking about the future of travel in a post-COVID-19 world where many people have become more conscious of the racism that Black people face on a daily basis and have faced for centuries. I have been increasingly thinking about whether this will have any material effect on the way people travel or where people choose to visit going forward.
I have often felt that except for Northern Africa, Zanzibar and South Africa, Africa has not been a desirable travel destination for even the most ardent of travellers. Indeed, when I see maps that have pins which highlight cities that have been visited by keen explorers, I seldom see any in Africa. Instead I see clusters around Europe, South Asia, East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Americas. Literally everywhere else in the world seems to be a must visit travel destination except for all sub-Saharan African countries. Why is this the case? I have a few theories:
- Decades of sub-Saharan African countries being negatively depicted by biased media outlets around the world as poor, as well as disease and famine-stricken, have made many people believe that these countries have nothing of interest, or of value, to offer tourists
- These countries are also depicted as politically volatile and dangerous, which is ignorant and a mass over-generalisation. This is also an image which is perpetuated by biased media outlets
- Travelling to these countries requires injections and medication that can be costly or off-putting to travellers
Regarding the first point, I would say that so many sub-Saharan countries have much more to offer than what you see the incredibly biased media outlets in the UK, USA and many other countries showcasing. Africa has so much beauty, culture, and hospitality to offer; I will be using my trip to Ghana in 2019 to showcase how rich a trip to a sub-Saharan country can be. About the second point, I would say that it is important to always proceed with caution, but to also remember that there is danger in all countries including the developed world. One only needs to watch the recording of the brutal murder of George Floyd to see that safety is not a given in a rich and highly developed country. Regarding the third point, there are several countries that require medical precautions, including vaccines and medication. For example, Brazil has seen a steady increase in the number of tourists visiting over the past few years and yet most visitors are required to get vaccinations for at least Typhoid, Tetanus and Hepatitis A. This illustrates that vaccinations and medication for travel need not be a deterrent.
As the world seems to be “waking up” (a phrase I still find laughable because it reveals the privilege that some people have to “wake up” to something that people have been suffering from for decades), I am suggesting that more people travel to Ghana. Yes, I am biased because my family hail from Ghana but there is so much more to my desire for more people to travel to Ghana. Ghana is a visually stunning country, the beaches in the Western region are some of the finest you will ever see. Moreover, last year Ghana amassed a whopping £1.5bn ($1.9bn) because of its “year of the return” tourism campaign. This campaign marked the 400-year anniversary (from 1619-2019) of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to North America when they arrived at Jamestown, Virginia. The campaign aimed to encourage people in the African diaspora to visit Ghana and learn more about its rich history, culture, and outdoor activities. Ghana has numerous slave castles where the most learned of tour guides will give you haunting yet in-depth and enlightening accounts of what life was like for enslaved Africans before they were sent to the Americas. You will hear about how they were forced to endure truly horrifying and brutal conditions in the slave castles before leaving through the door of no return to travel across the Atlantic on the slave ships that would take them to the Americas.
Beyond learning about the rich history of Ghana there is plenty to do in terms of shopping, eating, drinking, lounging on beaches and engaging in other fun activities. In the next few posts, I will recount some of my highlights from my trip from my time in Accra and elsewhere in Ghana.
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