By Kumsa Demboba
The Embassy of China in Addis Ababa (and Xinhua) on August 22, 2016 stated that Ethiopia and China have expressed their keen interest to cooperate on the development of tourism sector and engage in various trading activities in the tourism sector of Ethiopia. The Embassy said that both countries have agreed to explore ways of collaboration between them and boost the tourism industry.
The Embassy said both countries will jump at available strong-ties and opportunities used to attract more Chinese tourists to Ethiopian tourist destinations and enhance cooperation in the sector between the two countries. Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia, La Yifan noted that Ethiopia’s rich natural and historical heritages coupled with the government’s huge expenditure in infrastructure is showcasing that Ethiopia has unparalleled interest to exploit its untapped tourism potentials for the purpose of development and poverty reduction.
The Ambassador witnessed that Ethiopia’s landscape, wildlife, flora and fauna as well as its diverse cultures, and the infrastructure being developed over the past two decades makes Ethiopia potential country to boost its tourism sector and attract more visitors and investors from China (as China has the largest number of outbound tourists that reaches 120 million last year, making it the largest in outbound number of tourists).
He stated that the Chinese could participate in Ethiopia’s tourism development both as tourists and investors to cooperate with Ethiopians and jointly promote and develop the tourism industry. He said he has learned that there is a growing interest from the Chinese business sector to participate in the tourism sector development of Ethiopia.
Ethiopian State Minister of Culture and Tourism, Tadelech Dalecho said on the occasion that China and Ethiopia are countries with very strong and solid relationship. With a long-standing diplomatic tie, the two countries are enjoying strong relations at the levels of government to government, business to business, and also people to people relation.
She said hospitality and tourism is one of the sectors growing very fast in Ethiopia for the past few years. Ethiopia has very unique tourism potential for leisure tourists, for business as well as conference and various types of tourism purposes. She said she believes that the Ethiopian business community and Chinese business people will jointly undertake commendable activities in the tourism and hospitality sector.
Branding and boosting tourist destinations
Currently, the State Minister said, Ethiopia has attached prime importance to transform the tourism sector and make it one of the giant sectors that could contribute to the development of the country. To this end, the country has made various packages and incentives readily available to investors interested to engage in hotel and tourism sector. The investment policy is also very encouraging for foreign direct investment and tourism-related business activities.
In a bid to expand tourist destinations in Ethiopia, while inaugurating “Land of Origins” as the new brand of national tourism, Prime Minister Haile-Mariam Dessalegn had stated that the government has planned to build new airport adjoining the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD. He said the construction has aimed at investing in the modernization and expansion of major airports in the country as well as providing world-class services for business and leisure travelers.
He said construction will soon begin eying at making the GERD as one of the tourist destinations in Ethiopia, increasing the number of tourist arrivals and boosting their expenditure through the provision of high-end facilities (that satisfy their comfort and sightseeing). According to him, nation awaits formidable task to promote its image at international level and obtain its share of income from the global tourism industry. He stressed that the GERD will serve as one ingenious mechanism of branding national image.
It had been said that Ethiopia had lately replaced its tourism motto, “Thirteen Months’ Sun Shine” with a new brand “Land of Origins”. The old motto had served for over half a century. The new tourism catchphrase is anticipated to comprehensively showcase the country’s current feature and promote Ethiopia’s untapped tourism potential.
Ethiopian Tourism Organization (ETO) said that the new brand has been developed after conducting extensive research and consultation in collaboration with stakeholders, tour operators and potential tourists in source markets. The new brand will serve as the basis of crafting_ messages; truly showing the world Ethiopia’s being “Land of Origins” and inviting tourists to take time to be enchanted by Ethiopia’s extraordinary past, dynamic present, culture, history and heritage.
To help promote tourism in reinvigorated spirit, the new brand is being disseminated across the country including hotels, lodge and service areas of Ethiopian Airlines, which is national flag carrier. The new image is represented by a tree painted with the nations brand color: green, yellow and red encircled with blue (emblazoning the phrase); the roots, depicted by the national flag represent the history, the people, the land and the origins of the nation; the trunk stands for unity and strength of the nation; the branch and its leaves showcasing abundance and future prosperity of the country.
There are numerous tangible facts that witness Ethiopia as Land of Origins. However, in spite of its immense potential, people do not know about Ethiopia’s original and bountiful contribution to the world. According to CEO of the ETO, Dr. Solomon Tadesse, Ethiopia is the land on which human beings walked upright for the first time; the land that brought a gift to the entire world including coffee. It is also the melting pot of Africa and the cradle of mankind as proved by the fossils of Salam and Lucy (exhumed in Afar) and the source of the Blue Nile, which is the genesis of one of the greatest river-valley civilizations.
He said nation also boasts of landscapes of stunning beauty and dramatic contrasts from the high pinnacles of the Simien Mountains-the Roof of Africa-to the plummeting depths of the Danakil Depression, the lowest-and hottest place on earth. It has also embodied vast forests such as those in the Kafa Biosphere Reserve – the home of many wild coffee varieties, active volcanoes, hot springs, cool underground caverns, rugged gorges, spectacular waterfalls, rivers and shimmering lakes including Lake Tana, which is the source of the life-nurturing Blue Nile.
It is to be reminisced that European Council on Tourism had granted that last year’s accolade of World Best Tourism Destination to Ethiopia. The country had been praised for its outstanding natural beauty, spectacular landscapes and ancient culture that rivet the European Council on Tourism and Trade to select it out of 31 countries as the year’s top holiday spot.
Enhancing infrastructures and number of tourists eyeing at GDP-II
The number of visitors in the country had increased by 10 percent over the last decade, according to the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The year had seen influx of more than 600,000 tourists that were attracted by fertile national parks, over 3,000 year-old archeological history and nine UNESCO world heritage sites. According to the World Bank, tourism contributed an estimated 4.5% to the country’s GDP last year, generating nearly a million jobs and over two billion dollars in revenue.
Similarly, nation has attracted over 910,000 tourists in 2015/16 fiscal year and obtained 3.4 billion USD. Taking in to account its immense tourism potential, the country is expected to benefit from increased arrivals of visitors in the Second GTP, in which Ethiopia has targeted to attract over 2 million tourists every year and enhance the amount of revenue of the sector to cover at least five percent of the GDP.
Growing number of tourists are getting interested in the country’s exotic, off-beat and far-flung destinations. They consider Ethiopia as exhilarating holiday destination due to its magnificent scenery and cultural heritage, which will continue to make the country mesmerizing destination.
To this end, Ethiopia’s tourism development policies and programs have been formulated in a far-sighted manner targeting at changing the image of the country, increasing foreign exchange earnings and reducing poverty meaningfully, through sustainable tourism development. Mainly, in the GTP-2, nation will focus on many predominant areas such as human resource and infrastructure development, strengthening IT-related capacity, management and service delivery.
Cognizant of its vast and untapped tourism potential, Ethiopia has started to take tailored measures designed to preserve and develop tourist sites across the country. For instance, it is upgrading tourist infrastructures in various national parks. It is also renovating roads linking parks with major trunk roads and lodges. Other activities being undertaken by the government include protection of wild animals from illegal hunters and poachers in sanctuaries and parks, as well as conservation of heritage sites._
Despite tremendous endeavor to develop revenue generation capacity of the tourism industry, a study related to economic growth and tourism sector development in Ethiopia indicated that shortage of skilled human power, poor infrastructure, unskilled marketing, weak financial system and inadequate institutional support are palpable obstacles of tourism.
_Mainly, the sector has been challenged by weak implementation capacity and lack of competence of high and medium-level trained human power, operation system and institutional capacity. Similarly, the industry is said to be throttled by numerous shortcomings including lack of quality service near tourist sites; unskilled management and inadequate promotion of attractions and lack of ample finance and know-how to preserve historical, man-made and natural attractions.
In view of fathomless problems, nation awaits tremendous tasks to improve the condition of facilities and build the capacity of human power employed in the tourism sector. It is also encumbered with huge task to make sure that destinations are supplied with high-end facilities; the sector has be thoroughly overhauled before publicizing tourist destinations and available services.
Determined to alleviate these problems, the Minister of Culture and Tourism said that nation has started to undertake far-reaching measures. In line with this, five years’ tourism development plan had incorporated human resources development and improvement of information and management capacity. In addition, improvements of services, development of infrastructure and promotion of domestic tourism have been taken as priority areas.
Similarly, the key generic tools designed to translate plans into actions include formulation and implementation of well developed sector strategies; strong public investment program; public-private partnerships; strong community involvement and application of reliable and timely information.
As a leap forward, currently nation is encouraging investors to build hotels and lodges around destinations. To this end, the government has made readily available a variety of packages and incentives used to attract investors interested to invest in the sector. The incentives include permission to import tax-free capital goods as well as various grants and loans.
In this regard, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said it is striving to boost the awareness of people about the advantages of tourism. It said citizens are responsible for the success of tourism by welcoming tourists; making sure that tourists are taken care of and protecting attractions. Particularly, the private sector should be further encouraged to engage in the building and expanding of tourist facilities of appropriate standards at each tourist destination. This effort should also take into consideration the high-end facility demand of tourists for accommodation, food, entertainment services, etc.
Currently, sizable changes are being registered in the areas of facility construction and the number of tourists coming to Ethiopia has started to herald nation’s economic transformation through tourism. Ethiopia is keen on achieving significant breakthrough in tourism. However, concerted effort of all stakeholders is needed to achieve this leap forward transformation in the GTP-2; it has to go a long way to develop tourism to the desirable level and make it one of the reliable contributors to the national economy.