By Dargie Kahsay
Contrary to the expectations of many, Ethiopia’s tourism industry has continued with its usual momentum under the State of Emergency (SoE), according to Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Since the SoE is declared to safeguard the safe and free movement of people, the decree has not posed any threat for tourists and has rather ensured a better atmosphere for them.
Even under the normal legal/ constitutional order, Ethiopia is known to be one of the safest destinations of tourist as the Ministry with all stakeholders work jointly to protect the safety, security and wellbeing of tourists in the country, says Gezahegn Abate Public and International Relations Director with the Ministry. “Not only during state of emergency, there is crises management system to exchange information, to protect the safety of tourists through fast communication channels”.
Following the unrest that flared up in some parts of the country a SoE was declared to protect the constitution and constitutional system, to restore peace, to protect security and movement of citizens.
To further ensure the safety of the tourism sector a Tourism Task Force is established and an action plan put in place to protect the security and safety of tourists during their visit in any part of the country jointly with all stakeholders as the peace of the country is also restoring.
According to Gezahegne during the declaration of the first SoE in 2016/17 there were some misunder standings regarding restrictions put on diplomats which requires them to announce to the command post if they opt to travel more than 40 kilometers radius out of Addis. The misunder standings were cleared after dialogues which clarified that the requirements for prior ntification were intended to ensure their own safety, he noted.
Immediately after the declaration of the current SoE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has held discussion with diplomats based in Addis Ababa to aware about the objectives of the declaration while Ethiopian Embassies abroad are disseminating relevant information about the situation at home.
Ethiopia has continued to be an ideal place for tourists and conference tourism Gezahegn said adding that following the declaration of the SoE the country has not faced any cancelation of tourists visit schedule while all events, conferences and exhibitions are taking place without any additional permission from the command post.
America’s state minister, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister, United Arab Emirates Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministers were visited Ethiopia that is a big promotion, he said.
The director restated that in this week discussion with all stake holders; tour associations, tour destination area tourism offices, hotel and resort owners and security will hold on the protection and safety of tourists. “There is no any threat for tourists in Ethiopia but all stakeholders are ready for immediate responses and communication network is created and now tourists are visiting Ethiopia without any security problems” Gezahegne told.
Gezahegne further indicated that during the first six months of the current fiscal year 485, 806 foreign tourists have visited Ethiopia which exceeds the figure of the same period last year by 10.58% earning more than 1.8 billion USD, which is 8% more from last year’s similar period. The ministry plans to earn 4.5 billion USD from the sector in the fiscal year, he noted.
Ethiopia is yet not visited enough and not benefited from tourism sector comparing with its heritages, cultural and religious values, religious places, nations and nationalities with unique cultures, Ethiopia is the origin of human beings that is why we say our logo “Land of Origins,” it is the origin of Coffee, Gezahegne told.
For Gezahegn the reason why Ethiopia has not benefited enough from the sector is not only due to lack of promotion but lack of infrastructural and development. Until recent years the investment in the sector was too poor, there were not enough roads, lack of knowledge of tourist and travel agencies, infrastructural constraints in tourist destination areas, but now, the infrastructure is expanding and there is a suitable environment with suitable air condition in Ethiopia.
At this time capacity building and tourist destination development get concern as road transport is expanding to every destination, Ethiopian airlines have 23 local destinations, railway is also expanding and not only internally Ethiopia is expanding road transport to all its neighbors’፡ Djibouti, Sudan, Kenya, hotels and resorts are also expanding in tourist destination areas with great hospitality of the beloved people of Ethiopia, he said.
Gezahegne states that currently Ethiopian government put tourism sector as key sector and Tourism Transformation Council has established lead by the prime minister, Ethiopian tourism institute is also focusing on marketing promotion and tourist destination developments, and at all levels resorts, hotels, tourist destination infrastructures is becoming expanding in Ethiopia.