A tragic past and Obama's visit draw tourists to Ghana

The ocean views are stunning, but it's the tragic past of Ghana's rugged coast that is also drawing in visitors, thanks in part to America's first black president.

Perched on the windswept edge of West Africa, the imposing whitewashed former slave trading fort known as Cape Coast Castle has seen a steady increase in visitors since US President Barack Obama and his family toured here in 2009.

The dark dungeons where untold numbers of people were kept before being shipped off as slaves serve as stark reminders of the brutality they endured - a point of view perhaps too often overlooked in the Western world.

An increasing number of descendants of slaves and historically minded tourists have sought out this history, and a number of them have found their way to Cape Coast Castle.

"It's something I want to see once - it's so confronting," Hannah Richardson-Smith, an Australian, said recently outside the castle.

Obama, whose wife Michelle traces her ancestry to slaves, chose Ghana for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president in July 2009, and he and his family made sure to stop at Cape Coast Castle, now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A tour of the fort was "a moving moment", Obama said then.

He added that "there is a special sense that on one hand this place was a place of profound sadness, on the other hand it is where the journey of much of African-American experience began."

"Following President Obama's visit we are seeing a consistent increase in international arrivals," deputy Tourism Minister Kobby Akyeampong told AFP.

Current arrivals are averaging 748,000 per year from 587,000 two years before and the aim is to hit a million thanks in part to the so-called "Obama effect".

The World Tourism Organisation listed Ghana among African nations that "far outperformed" the world average in international tourist arrivals in 2009.

Ghana enjoyed a double-digit increase in visitor arrivals in 2009 at 15 percent after Kenya, Angola and Swaziland, which recorded between 20 and 24 percent.

"President Obama's visit in 2009 reiterated the general security level, at the same time emphasising on the rich history of the nation and the important role it played in the history of the United States' rise to prominence," said Yaw Oduro-Frempong, an analyst with New York-based DaMina Advisors.

Built in the 17th century about 160 kilometres (100 miles) west of the capital Accra, Cape Coast Castle was one of the continent's main outposts from where countless slaves were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas.

Guides at the former fort in western Ghana repeat to tourists some of the most harrowing accounts of how Africans, captured from their villages, were crammed in dark, small underground cells before being shipped.

Cape Coast Castle was the biggest slave-trade post along Ghana's 300-kilometre (180-mile) coastline, which is dotted with 60 forts, most of them now in ruin.

The fort which changed hands five times during the 17th century later became a British administrative centre for what was then known as the Gold Coast, now Ghana.

The castle has become a must-see for foreign tourists.

An African-American tourist, James Clarke, dining in Accra's popular Osu district on the eve of his visit to the former slave post, said previously he knew nothing about Ghana but football, with the nation's team having advanced to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2010.

But Obama's visit "made me to believe that there is something interesting about this country which I must see for myself."

Ghana also has the advantage of being one of the most stable countries in a region tainted by a history of political and ethnic violence.

"The peace Ghana is enjoying is one of the factors attracting growing numbers of people," said Nkunu Akyea, a senior member of the tour guides association of Ghana.

It also holds a particular place in the continent's history, having been the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from colonial rule in 1957.

"Ghana has lots of people coming from the USA, especially black Americans, probably because they want to see the slave forts, they want to know how their ancestors were shipped out of Africa," said Mohammed Daramy, head of the tourism sector for West African bloc ECOWAS.

Tourism contributes six percent to Ghana's GDP. The discovery of oil and the resulting new investment, bring an increased focus on Ghana, could also see a further swell in visitors.

"The oil find has boosted tourism in Ghana tremendously with investors visiting the nation to evaluate potential business initiatives," Oduro-Frempong said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot