It is past mid-day at downtown Osu-Alata, on the main Castle road in the capital, Accra. A white painted building sits close to the main busy street. On the wall is a campaign poster of a smiling President John Mills (then a candidate) which has suffered from the rays of the sun and heavy rains over time.
The house, built in the latter part of the 1880s by a former European merchant Henry Richter, is forgotten with its rich history not spoken about except architects and historians who are concerned about the potential it has to increase tourism revenue.
In the baking sun a group of professionals from different spheres of work are taken on a tour of the building by retired Ghanaian professor of architecture Nii Adziri Wellington. The tour forms part of an exercise organised by the Arts in Social Structure, an Accra based NGO to sensitize journalists on the need to appreciate works of architecture and report accurately on it.
Once a historical building much envied by other foreigners and rich Gold Coast merchants, the outlook of the building is considered a perfect model of architecture befitting the status of the rich at the time. However, it became a secret hideout for the smuggling of slaves from the northern parts of the Gold Coast during those brutal years of slavery.
There are traces of captured slaves who spent their past time playing oware. Professor Wellington who led the excursion to the Richter Fort as well as other historical places in Osu, said the house, which today sits as a lone voice was a busy trading post for some descendants of Henry Richter who were completely against the idea of banning on slavery.
Inside the house is a security post used by some of those hired to watch over the slaves during the period. Today a pale shadow of itself with very little regard given to it in terms of harnessing its untapped potential, most of those on the trip were confident the building has the capacity of to boost the tourism outlook of Ghana as well as create jobs even for its inhabitants most of whom are sitting ideal with no jobs.
Apart from the Cape Coast and Elmina Castles, all in the Central Region, which are mostly associated with the slave trade, historians like Professor Wellington are confident there are more historical sites scattered across Osu alone that has enough rich but ugly history of slavery as that of the two main castles which tourists would like to see and even write about.
The Richter fort which forms part of European castles and forts found in other places such as Kinka in Osu have the capacity of adding up to the expected revenue collection this country is hoping to get, if properly harnessed.
The country currently relies on the two main castles with the rest of the revenue coming from other places such as Kakum. Some tourism writers and experts however believe the country is making far less in tourism receipts than it can actually rake in.
“There is so much in Accra that the tourism sector can benefit from but are those in charge of tourism really ready to tap into it?” asked one of the participants.
By its own expectations, Ghana hopes to make tourism the third income earning sector in the country and participants were confident that the Ministry of Tourism and its agencies will consider the newly identified attractions.
Since becoming a member of the World Tourism Organisation since its formation in 1975, the country has only ranked a lonely 100th in tourists’ arrival out of the more than one hundred tourism destinations in the world.
For example, statistics from the UNWTO indicate, as far back as 2005, that the numbers of tourists who visit a place like Egypt was more than seven million while that of Ghana stood within the four hundreds. The highest Ghana has recorded for the past five years was more than 500,000 though Nigeria exceeded that target despite her many trouble spots.
According to tourism writer Bill Reynolds, one of the country’s biggest selling tourism point is the proverbial Ghanaian hospitality, but that has even not been translated to have the expected revenue effect.
“Where the country falls short is the presentation of tourism products, particularly with the sites and attractions which are thought to be monotonous.”