Ethiopia blends hospitality, heritages and developmental agenda
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Chambalala Sidama festival in southern Ethiopia UNESCO registered Cultural Heritage

Ethiopia blends hospitality, heritages and developmental agenda

By Adem Mohammed
Tigrai Online, Ethiopian News, June 28, 2016

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Last month, it was disclosed that Ethiopia has earned 2.6 billion USD from tourism in the first nine months of the current fiscal year. The income was generated from over 700,000 foreign tourists who stayed an average of 16 days. Indeed, this is a big boost. In the past years, it would take twelve full months to have that many tourists. A decade ago, the annual number of visitors has been lower. In the 2014/15 fiscal year, the revenue from tourism was about $2.9 billion. That is for the whole year. The sector contributed about 4.5 percent of the national GDP and generated about a million jobs according to the World Bank.

Indeed, this is a result of multi-sector sustained effort to make Ethiopia more and more popular among travelers.

There are clear and appropriate government policies and strategies for each and every sector that is leading us to the eradication of poverty. There is also a win-win collaboration with our development partners. The government strives for mutual cooperation and win-win collaboration with partners in every sector. This is why they are completely engaged in what we are doing side by side with our government.

In the last decade, Ethiopia has become known as a safer and affordable destination. The government has engaged all stakeholders into contributing in the sector. As a result, in the past few years Ethiopian diaspora have built more than 200 luxury hotels in the country.

Last year, the renowned Madrid based strategy consulting firm, Bloom Consulting, which specialized in country branding and business strategy, ranked Ethiopia among the top ten in Africa. Bloom Consulting's report described Ethiopia among "the notable trendy new tourist destinations which climbed significantly in the ranking."

As the report explains the economic performance of a country’s tourism sector is a key variable and the most important aspect in measuring that country's sector. Especially, the average of total annual tourism receipts of international tourists within a country and also average accumulated growth of total annual tourism receipts of international tourists within a country. The progress is an outcome of a sustained lengthy and holistic effort of the government and the stakeholders of the sector.

Indeed, the accomplishments are encouraging.

Before the first Growth and Transformation Plan, Ethiopia had eight World Heritage Sites registered by UNESCO, but during the last five years, Ethiopia was able to registered one tangible and one intangible in total two heritages by UNESCO.

The first was the Konso Cultural Landscape and the other one was Meskel Demera festivities (the finding of the true cross). Recently we have also registered one additional intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, called Fiche-Chambalala, which is the celebration of the New Year for the Sidama people situated in the southern part of the country. That means our number of heritage sites has been raised to 11.

Domestically, the sectors have created 783,638 jobs over the last four years of the GTP I period achieving more than 90% of the plan. As the Ministry of Culture and Tourism underlined, the massive expansion of standard hotels, cafeterias, restaurants, souvenir gift shops, recreation centers, socio- economic service at tourist attraction sites had catalyzed for the creation of job opportunities coupled with the skill upgrade training provided to 1.5 million people working in the tourism sector and in 110 professions of tourism sector.

The Second Growth and Transformation Plan sets more targets that are ambitious. The government plans to triple the number of tourists arriving in Ethiopia to more than 2.5 million each year by 2020, making tourism the leading sector.

The government also plans to boost the annual revenue from the sector to over $3.5 billion, which will be bigger than its more tourist established neighbors Kenya and Tanzania. The vision includes making Ethiopia one of the top five tourist destinations in Africa by 2020 through developing attractions and promoting culture and tourism products.

The Second Growth and Transformation Plan clearly articulates the path forward. As the plan states, the direction will be:

Aggressively promote Ethiopia to fully exploit the potential of the sector. Conserve and, work towards improving two wild life conservation parks and natural tourist attraction sites to be registered as world heritages, set-up and organize one folklore museum that represent the nation and nationalities of Ethiopia, increase tourist inflow significantly and thereby increase revenue generated, increase the number of certified and standardized tourism service providing institutions, increase the number of hotels that have international brand are the main targets of culture and tourism sector development.

The implementation strategies are, work in coordinated and integrated manner with stakeholders, through Tourism Transformation Council generate more information about the sector by enhancing awareness through educational institutions and mass media, support and follow-up educational institutions and research centers to provide the skilled manpower required by sector.

As Professor Anton Caragea observed, "the government of Ethiopia is recognizing the importance of tourism as a key facilitator for the country's development, investing in infrastructure, creating a special team under the Prime Minister's leadership for destination promotion and management and protecting the cultural, natural and historical patrimony of the country."

Obelisks of Axum in Tigrai state northern Ethiopia

Indeed, Ethiopia will continue its long tradition of hospitality.

It is set to double its effort to tap tapping her massive tourism potential by improving its infrastructure and aggressively promoting its natural, historical, and cultural heritages, to fully exploit the potential of the sector.

The tradition of hospitality, its heritages, and clearly articulated directions will ensure Ethiopia shines as jewel of the tourism world and advance her development agenda.

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