By Tewodros Kassa
According to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) handbook on tourism destination, branding tourism has become one of the world’s fastest growing economic sectors in recent years. Governments around the world are increasingly recognizing the power of tourism to boost their nation’s development and prosperity. As more tourism destinations emerge and competition for visitors becomes more intense, a destination’s potential to project itself on the world stage and differentiate itself from others is ever more important. Recognizing the value of a successfully built and managed destination brand indicates that working on branding is the primary agenda of the tourism sector.
Ethiopia is known with its huge UNESCO registered tangible and intangible heritages in Africa.
Even if the country is endowed with diversified tourist attractions,it has not benefited more from the tourism sector yet, said Gezahagn Abate, Public and International Relations Director at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
He noted that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)would become a new potential hope for the country’s reviving tourism and entertainment sector.
In order to harness this potential,it is crucial to undertake various tasks on tourist services facility and expansions around the construction site of the Dam. Availability of competitive[better quality] services around the project site will be prioritized to meet luxurious tourists’ demand, he indicated.
Moreover, various infrastructural developments[road, telecommunication, airport,hotels and resorts]along the course of the Dam are important in which massive investors are expected to join and invest on different tourist service rendering organizations.
Currently, studies are being conducted for the construction of tour and travel services, lodges, hotels and resorts as well as parks and recreational centers around the project site.
In addition to this, other tourist serving organizations are expected to be open for GERD visitors in line with the Dam’s accomplishment.
According to him, the huge artificial lake,which could be created following the accomplishment of the construction of the Dam,will become one of the largest human made tourist destinations of Ethiopia. “The Dam being the flagship project and major agenda of Ethiopians, is also currently contributing to the domestic tourism enormously”, he added.
Ethiopian Tourism Organization (ETO),Public Relations Director Getnet Yigzaw told The Ethiopian Herald that the Dam has significant roles to the shining tourism and entertainment sector.
Most domestic and international tourist flow has been directed to Gondar, Lalibela, Axum, Harar, Tana monasteries as well as to national parks and other Ethiopian unique tourist destinations for years. And now GERD is on its way to become a new potential hotspot [destination] for tourists, Getnet said.
Joint collaboration of destination management, marketing and promotion as well as other actors in the sector is fundamental to utilize the untapped tourism potential of the nation, according to him.
Modern tourism is closely linked to development and encompasses growing number of new tourism destinations. These dynamics have turned tourism into a key driver for socio-economic progress.
Active participation of the private sectors, water expertise and the public at large is needed to utilize the country’s new water based [GERD]tourism component, he added.
Hydropower, tourism, navigation [water transportation], fishery, conducting studies on water bodies and other services makes the Dam a multipurpose project and potential to the country’s economic growth by boosting its earning from the tourism and various sectors. _
To sum up, nowadays tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. The business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles. Tourism has become one of the major players in international commerce, and represents at the same time one of the main income sources for many developing countries. This growth goes hand in hand with an increasing diversification and competition among tourist destinations.
Accordingly, over 256,000 people have so far visited the project site starting from its launching.