Monday, April 9, 2012

ANOMABU - Fort William

A lack of advertising for the smaller coastal forts could be costing the Central Region serious cedis.
As well as attracting more tourism cedis to the fishing communities that buttress them, better promotion of smaller historic forts, like Fort William in Anomabo, could also reduce the funding burden on government for maintaining these historic sites.
Fort William curator Philip Atta-Yawson, nicknamed “The Professor” by academics who consult him for his vast knowledge of the history of slavery, said a great opportunity was being missed.
The reason: a failure to adequately promote and advertise the smaller forts in the region.
Last year, Fort William, Anomabo, not far from the larger, more popular Cape Coast and Elimina castles, had 54 people sign its visitors’ book, seven of whom were Ghanaian.

When Central Press visited at the end of February, 13 people had signed the same book so far this year.
Cape Coast Castle, meanwhile, had an estimated 64,000 visitors last year. 64,000 visitors who could have made the short journey from Cape Coast to Anomabo and Fort William if they had known about it through better advertising, especially, The Professor said, on the internet.
“I have all the information” necessary for a concerted campaign advertising Fort William, he said.
While it is highly likely far more people passed through Fort William’s doors than the 54 who signed its visitors’ book last year, The Professor said with the help of concerted advertising, that number could be far greater.
As things stand, The Professor said most visitors to the fort are Ghanaians from Accra and Kumasi in the village at weekends for festivals, funerals and similar events.
“Most tours happened at weekends, when there is a fun ride, people come from all over,” he said.
He said the reactions he gets from Ghanaian visitors were interesting and proved how valuable a Fort William tour could be in educating people about the history of the former British Gold Coast.
Visitors from the Ashanti Region, whose forebears of the Ashanti Empire were involved in the supply-side of the slave trade, often reacted with the most surprise.
“They react in amazement to such big, big structures on the coast,” he said.
The advent of foreign visitors to Fort William was a relatively new phenomenon and still, they accounted for “not too much a year” of the overall number, according to The Professor.
As more and more foreign visitors come to Ghana, inspired partly from US President Barack Obama’s first official international visit to Ghana in 2009, and the growing popularity, particularly among African Americans and Afro-Caribbean people wanting to see where their forefathers came from and what they had to endure as part of the slave trade, the fact so few of them visit Fort William is a shame.
In addition, more visitors means more money: more money for the Ghana Museum And Moment Authority that maintains these sites.
Perhaps most importantly, more visitors means more people spending money on ancillary services provided by local communities for things like food, drinks and accommodation.
The huge discrepancy in visitor numbers to Fort William by comparison to Cape Coast Castle is understandable. The latter is far bigger; it played a more prominent role during the colonial era than Fort William and as such is better resourced and equipped for tours.
However, a tour of Fort William, guided by the charismatic and very knowledgeable Professor is an educational and, despite the harrowing subject matter, entertaining experience
The Professor said he often thought a concerted effort by tourism authorities to advertise these sites to attract both domestic and international visitors would be a good idea. Its close proximity to both Elimina and Cape Coast castles meant it could benefit from a packaged tour that encompassed visits to all three sites in one day.

Built by the Dutch in 1640. Captured by the Swedes in the early 1650s. Captured by the Danes under Sir Henry Carlof, in 1657. Recaptured by the Dutch in 1660. Capitulated to the Dutch under De Ruyter in 1665. Rebuilt by the English as Fort Charles in 1679. Occupied by the Anomabus, in 1701. Abandoned by the English in 1730. Present fort built by the British, in 1753-56. Bombarded by French in 1794. Attacked by the Anomabus in 1801. Attacked by Ashantis on 15th June 1806. Purchased by the English in 1872. Restored in 1954.

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