Ghana in the 17th century was a key transit point for transporting slaves. The inhumane act’s documentation began in 1619, as the year the first black slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in the USA.
Hence, in 2018, H.E Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at an event in the USA, officially proclaimed 2019 as the ‘Year of Return to welcome our brothers and sisters of the diaspora who could trace their ancestry to Africa after 400 years from 1619.
The initiative which was aimed at encouraging members of the African diaspora to visit Ghana was linked to the 400th Anniversary of slaves landing in Jamestown Virginia, USA, which is said to be the first recorded arrival of the enslaved Africans in the Americas.
The ‘Year of Return’ sparked global movement and it has been described as “a great success” by President Nana Akufo-Addo.
How many people visited Ghana?
Ghana Tourism Authority saw a significant increase in international arrivals into the country. Though, the Tourism Authority predicted the Year of Return would attract 500,000 extra visitors at the beginning of 2019, the total arrivals increased from 956,372 in 2018 to 1,130,307 in 2019 and the visitors were mostly Citizens from the United States, Nigeria, and United Kingdom.
Was there a boost in the economy?
The private sector industries such as airlines, hotels, tour operators, car rentals, restaurants, and Art and Crafts dealers to name a few were positively affected due to the increased number of travelers in the country. Also the average stays in the Ghana as well as the estimated spend per tourist saw a significant increase from 8 days to 10 days and $1862 in 2017 to the current figure of $2,931 per tourist respectively.
As compared to previous years, tour operators increased bookings for tours to areas such as Cape Coast and Elmina which is a link to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade while Art Centre merchants doubled their sales during the years of return.
Did it project Ghana’s image?
“The Year of Return” was covered domestically and internationally, and this drew wider attention to Ghana and positively influenced international media reports.
Ghana was highlighted as a historic, cultural, vibrant and innovation hub by reporters from around the world who have travelled to Ghana to cover the event. To talk about ‘December’, which is branded as #DecemberInGH, over 15 international media organisayions confirmed travelling to Ghana to report on Year of Return events. CNN, BBC, AL- JAZEERA, SABC, Essence Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Harlem Times, Face2Face, and several others are key international outlets that have featured Ghana.
The coverage on “Year of Return” has changed the narrative about Africa and branded Ghana as the gateway to Africa and one of the top tourism, investment, and repatriation destinations in the world.
What were the social impact?
One of the key element for the success story of the “Year of Return” was impacting the community. Among the community successes were, the two boreholes built at the Akropong School of Blind which provides Fresh water for the community. Fuse ODG and Chaka Bars are building a school in Akosombo, and a building restoration project at Basis International in Chorkor, a fishing community in Accra was completed by Omega. In addition, 50 trees were planted at Ohene Cocoa and a Tourism Information Centre and Memorial Garden of Return was built in Anomabu in a commemorative effort to honour the diaspora by the Ghana Tourism Authorit.
A follow up to the successful 400 years’ celebration was launched in 2020, ‘Beyond the Return’ – a 10-year project under the theme, “A decade of African Renaissance – 2020-2030”, which hinges on these seven pillars;
- Experience Ghana – Invite Global African Family to visit Ghana while Creating memorable experiences through Sankofa and healing journeys, cultural events,
festivals, entertainment, nightlife, culinary, and #DecemberinGhana to establish long term connections with the Ghanaian and African Diaspora.
- Invest in Ghana – This will create special investment programmes and ease of doing business for the diasporas.
- Brand Ghana- To craft a new narrative on Ghana and strategically promote Ghana to the world.
- Celebrate Ghana – Create a sense of national consciousness anchored on key cultural festivals, media programs, adoption of contemporary festivals unto the national calendar
and promotion of domestic tourism.
- Diaspora Pathway to Ghana – It will facilitate key diaspora pathway programs such as
citizenship programs, educational and work exchanges, residence and work permits.
- Give Back to Ghana – generate a new sense of community service and giving that will create ongoing legacies for the project.
- Promote Pan African Heritage and Innovation – this will focus on promoting Pan-African and Ghanaian heritage and develop pilgrimage infrastructure around sites of memory.
Though the tourism industry has been hard hit by coronavirus pandemic, the impact of “Beyond the Return” is as promising as the YOR as the new initiative will continue to grow Ghana’s tourism industry, showcase Ghana’s investment potential and solidify its diaspora engagement programmes.
By Darling Asieduwaa Ankrah, GTA Corporate Affairs Dept