What started as a promotional campaign by Ghana’s Ministry of Tourism to commemorate 400 years since the first slave ship reached the United States, known as Year of Return, has encouraged some Americans to stay for good.
Leaders in Ghana said that travellers to the West African country have nearly doubled in 2019 compared to the previous year. Visa applications to Ghana went from about 1,000 per week to 10,000 and most visitors are America, as reported in the Independent.
What’s more surprising for tourism officials is the number of people who have decided to stay in Ghana. 126 people were granted citizenship this fall, including 46 Americans, making it one of the country’s biggest naturalization ceremonies since 2016.
“We could not have imagined this,” Akwasi Agyeman, chief executive of the Ghana Tourism Authority, said.
How Celebrities Have Changed The Perception Of Ghana
The rush to Ghana intensified after several statements and tweets from President Donald Trump.
In one instance, he referred to African countries as s—t holes and most recently, he told four congresswomen, including Ilhan Omar a Somali refugee, to “go back” to “the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came”. It sparked outrage from people around the world but Congresswoman Omar, who represents Minnesota, responded with pictures from the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.
Omar posted photos after an official visit in August with the caption, so grateful for the honor to return to Mother Africa.”
A-list celebrities have also helped to promote Ghana as the place to be. Steve Harvey, rappers T.I, Rick Ross, and Cardi B have all posted to their social media pages with their millions of followers about Ghana’s beauty.
According to the Independent, a reporter asked Cardi B about her impression of Ghana and she replied: “They don’t know it’s lit. They don’t know it’s beautiful. They don’t know the food is delicious.”
Beyond The Return Campaign
Applications to enter Ghana went up 900 percent in 2019 at the same time that consumer spending on tourism, hospitality, and leisure in Africa is projected to hit $262bn in the next decade, up from $124bn in 2015, according to the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Ghana’s government hopes the spotlight will create more jobs and investment opportunities, which is why tourism officials have launched “Beyond the Return”, a public campaign to help new arrivals get settled for the long haul.
Credit: Parker Diakite