Ghana’s ‘Year Of Return’ Welcomes 1Million Visitors
Tourism is big business. Globally, it accounts for more than 10% of GDP. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, 1 out of 5 of all jobs created in the last 5 years was in tourism. But on the African continent, it accounts for only 3.6% of GDP. With its massive growth and job-creating potential, it’s no wonder why African governments are trying to increase tourism to their nations. None has done it as well as Ghana. The “Year of Return” has hit a chord.
In January of 2019, the Ghana Tourism Authority projected that “Year of Return” programming would bring 500,000 diasporans to visit the country over the course of the year. The actual number has well-exceeded expectations. The Ghana Tourism Authority reports that there have already been 750,000 foreign visitors in 2019 and that number is expected to top 1M before the year ends.
Marketed as an event to celebrate the resilience of African people and to mark the 400th anniversary of the first Africans who were forcibly sold into the Atlantic slave trade, it was officially launched in August 2018 in Ghana and announced in September at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The UN Declaration was also made for this event.
Why did traveling to Ghana resonate so deeply with so many people around the world?
Traveling to Ghana is not just about visiting the beaches and tasting the food. It is about healing. Ghana was the point-of-no-return for many Africans sold into the Atlantic slave trade. According to UNESCO, there are 4 slave castles and 23 slave forts still visible along Ghana’s coast. It is important for their descendants to visit the literal or symbolic place where their ancestors entered slavery.
“We have to figure out a way for them to come back to the soil. There is something healing about it. You don’t even know it’s there, just because you never touched down,” said Koshie Mills, the Ghanaian Ambassador for Film, Art, and Culture, according to Fobes
She hopes that the success of Ghana’s “Year of Return” can help many other African governments to come up with similar initiatives.