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‘Everybody Told Us It Wouldn’t Work’

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In the heart of Accra lies East Legon, a cosmopolitan suburb with some of the most prestigious real estate in Ghana. One such Victorian style house, on a private road, is home to Delphine Brew-Hammond, otherwise known as Miss Tourism.

One of the leading lights of Ghanaian tourism, Brew-Hammond’s story has been a journey most people thought she was “insane” to set off on. She is the founder of Miss Tourism Ghana, a beauty pageant with the aim of boosting the country’s tourism, both locally and internationally. The girls that take part in the contest get a shot at a brighter future and are given the opportunity to promote tourism and the economic benefits that come with it.

Twenty years ago, Brew-Hammond was living in the United States with her husband and three children earning a six-figure salary.

She began her career as a marketing executive in New York. On weekends, the family visited other states in America to see how the rich and famous lived. However, her love for tourism was born from a chance encounter. Part of the school curriculum in New York required children to visit key monuments in America. They had to get a parent to join them on the trip and Brew-Hammond was nominated by her then 12-year-old son to be their tourist guide.

“I was really annoyed when I had to go because I had work and I really did not want to take the time off,” says Brew-Hammond.

To her surprise, Brew-Hammond loved the experience. When she returned to Ghana in 2000, she researched tourism in Ghana. She started small by forming clubs that would take students to the country’s tourist spots. They visited national parks and nature reserves across the country. Brew-Hammond was encouraged by how the experience enriched the children’s lives, most of whom had never left their local towns. It was then that she decided to create a pageant – Miss Tourism Ghana.

“When we first decided to do it, everybody told us it wouldn’t work,” she says.

It was a difficult sell. Other competitive pageants, like Miss Ghana, meant that a tourism-focused beauty pageant was unlikely to garner major sponsorship. Brew-Hammond incorporated Miss Tourism Ghana in the country’s National Tourism Development Plan in 2009.

“They called me Miss Tourism in the ministries because I was always walking up and down the stairs almost every other week with a new letter which needed approval,” says Brew-Hammond.

The Minister of Tourism at the time bought into her dream and signed all the paperwork. The next difficult task was selecting the entrants for the pageant.

“In the beginning, we had to beg most of the girls to take part in our pageant. Everyone wanted to be Miss Ghana because it was much more prestigious.”

The idea was to have each girl representing a different region in Ghana. They did everything themselves in the beginning because they simply could not afford to pay anyone else for services.

Brew-Hammond’s plan was to get the queen of Miss Tourism Ghana to take part in international tourism pageants. Unfortunately, none of the girls were granted visas to the United Kingdom.

She decided to take matters into her own hands and arranged to sit down with the British High Commissioner. The problem was solved.

The pageant has been running for six years and has paved the way for several young girls to achieve their dreams. Brew-Hammond’s vision is to find raw talent and turn them into leaders of the future, and in the process, turn her country into a tourist’s paradise.

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