"Today is party A, tomorrow is party B" : The Elmina 2015 Strategy and the politics of tourism-led local economic development planning in Ghana

Adu-Ampong, E.A.


Across much of the social sciences, it has been well established that institutions are important in explaining socio-economic and political outcomes. However, this idea is much less entrenched within tourism studies, especially in the area of tourism’s role in economic development and poverty reduction. Tourism in and of itself is a neutral force and therefore whether it can be used for development purposes depend on the interactions with institutions and structures. Tourism development is political in nature and therefore it is important to critically assess how institutions constrain and/or enable the use of tourism for poverty reduction.
This chapter sets out arguments about the particular ways in which institutions, particularly political party structures, shape development outcomes by focusing on the Elmina Cultural Heritage Management Programme (ECHMP) in Ghana. The central question addressed by this chapter relates to how the political nature of institutions shapes the use of tourism for poverty reduction goals. Extensive interviews with key actors (past and present) involved in the ECHMP as well as a critical review of programme documents serve as the basis for this chapter. The ECHMP which started in 2000 and resulted in the formulation of the Elmina 2015 vision sought to transform the development fortunes of the city of Elmina through cultural heritage tourism. The findings indicate that the vision has come undone mainly due to the messy institutional set up at the destination level. This chapter shows how key institutional arrangements in the tourism sector at both the national and destination levels of Ghana shaped the outcome of the Elmina 2015 vision.
The wider implication of this chapter is to show the importance of bringing back the critical role of politics and state governance institutions in addressing the tourism-poverty nexus. The historical account of how the Elmina 2015 Strategy evolved offers important implications for contemporary tourism development in Ghana. Tourism development depends on state policy directives that span a multitude of institutions at different governance scales. It is therefore important to state institutions maintain a coherent long-term policy ambition in this area. This chapter therefore highlights the specific ways in which the political nature of institutions is important for our understanding of the tourism-poverty nexus. Such an understanding ought to be a foundation on which interventions can then be designed in utilising tourism for poverty reduction.