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Paragliding Festival takes off Friday

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The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) has launched the 2023 edition of the Kwahu Easter Paragliding Festival which is scheduled to take place from tomorrow, April 7 to Monday, April 10.

At the launch in March at Nkwatia-Kwahu in the Kwahu East District of the Eastern Region, GTA announced that the cost for flying during this year’s paragliding festival would be GH¢950.

An annual celebration organised by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture in collaboration with GTA and the chiefs and Okwahuman, the Kwahu Easter Paragliding Festival has not only gone international, but has also become an integral part of the Kwahu Easter festivities since 2005.

Paragliding was introduced as part of the Easter festivities during the tenure of then Minister of Tourism and Modernisation of the capital city Accra, Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, after he visited the Kwahu ridge as part of his familiarisation tour of the country in 2003.

The festival is said to be the brainchild of Ferdinand Ayim, who was a special assistant to the then minister from 2002-2005.

The GTA has, therefore, erected a monument at the paragliding field in honour of Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey and Mr Ayim who have both passed on.

Meanwhile, the first Ghana Paragliding Festival in 2005, as part of the Kwahu Easter festivities, was launched by then Vice-President of Ghana, Alhaji Aliu Mahama.

Each year the Easter festival has brought together family and friends from the diaspora as well as indigenes of Okwahuman to have fun and experience the rich cultural and tourism sites within the Kwahu enclave.

The GTA has, therefore, urged hoteliers within the Kwahu enclave to charge moderate rates to avoid a shift in the tourism destination for the country.

The Authority is aiming at leveraging the paragliding festival to increase tourist arrivals to 1.3 million this year.

Since the paragliding festival commenced, it has attracted tourists and pilots from several parts of the world, including France, Germany, Peru, Switzerland, the United States of America and Ghana, except for a two-year break due to COVID-19.

After a two-year hiatus, the annual paragliding festival, held during the Easter season, returned to the Odweanoma mountain at Atibie into the plains of Nkawkaw last year.

The first paragliding flight for 2022 was with the Chief Director at the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, John Yaw Agbeko, with the lead pilot, Chuck Smith.

Mr Agbeko, in an interview, expressed excitement at being the first person to fly; indicating that he was optimistic about his safety since he flew with an experienced pilot.

He urged all revellers to participate and have a great experience of flying above the Kwahu Ridge and observe the entire beauty of the Kwahu landscape.

Mr Smith, the lead pilot who has been flying at the Kwahu Easter in the past years, in an interview indicated that he missed the festival and felt good about the celebration.

Seasoned pilots from around the world flew hundreds of revellers from the paragliding field.

Then, the local and foreign guests, some of whom flew into the country purposely for the festival, paid GH¢550 for the experience, which includes landing on the pitch of the Nkawkaw Sports Stadium.

“The paragliding exercise is done at the mercy of the wind.

The wind must blow towards a particular direction to influence the flight,” Kwame Owusu, a Ghanaian resident in the United States of America (USA) who is a certified Paragliding Pilot, told the Daily Graphic in an interview.

He explained that paragliding was an exciting aviation sport that could bring excitement to those who indulged in it and could also help open up the country’s tourism industry.

Asked whether it was a scary experience, he said: “I was also scared the first time but a few weeks later I went to the mountain and did it.

I know people are scared.

Yes, they have to be scared because we are not birds. But this is safe and I encourage everyone to get involved.”

He said he had completed 48 flights since he became a certified pilot.

Another pilot, Cherie Silvera, who also flew in from the USA, said the Kwahu Easter paragliding festival was unique because it was fused into an entire celebration involving many communities.

Ms Silvera, who has been paragliding for 26 years, said the beauty of the festival was in the people who gathered for it.

“I was here three years ago and I couldn’t wait to be back,” she said.

The Deputy Head of Corporate Affairs at GTA, Kofi Atta Kakra Kusi, said it had been the priority of successive governments to make the paragliding festival a major event on the national tourism calendar.

He said the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the GTA to break the paragliding festival because there was economic hardship and travel restrictions around the world.

He said the lifting of the restrictions had revived the enthusiasm of revellers in the festival, and that had also pushed the GTA to organise it.

He disclosed that after the paragliding festival’s revival in 2022 the patronage was enormous, such that in the first two days about 120 people had flown tandem flights with a pilot.

“It has been an exciting experience for revellers and all of us,” he said.

For the first time in the history of the festival, he said a locally trained pilot, Jonathan Quaye, who can carry passengers, had been certified to participate in the festival.

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