By Yohanes Jemaneh
After two decades on last Wednesday , two Ethiopian airplanes flew crossing the airspace of Eritrea and arrived Asmara ,UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, at the midday. The flights were carried out mainly to reunion families who have been separated for the last twenty years and to usher the opening of new chapter for Ethiopia and Eritrea.
So what does the future hold for Ethiopia and Eritrea tourism development in relation to resumption of Ethiopian Airlines ‘ flights to Asmara /Eritrea and restoration of diplomatic ties between these two sisterly countries? For Ethiopian Tour Operators Association President Yakob Melaku, the flight resumption and the opening of airspace between these two nations will help to consolidate centuries -old Ethio- Eritrea people to people ties apart from enhancing tourism activities in both countries.
“The flight is pivotal to attract tourists worldwide and strengthen mutual cooperation between the two nations in the tourism sector. As the Ethiopian has already opened its office in Asmara,it makes the jobs of tour operator easier. This is because tourists who use Ethiopian or Eritrean Airlines can contact us coming to Addis Ababa and Asmara in a bid to get the desire tourism information about these two countries.”
He also notes that the visit of Ethiopian CEO, who is also Board Member of the Ethiopian Tourism Organization on the first flight to Asmara is significant to look into tourism opportunities in Eritrea and the way forward between the two countries.
As to him, the cooperation between the two countries will help filling the gaps in terms of putting in place basic tourism infrastructure to develop the sector. “Eritrea has better tourism opportunities in waters and beaches which Ethiopia does not. Similarly, Ethiopia’s diverse cultures, topographies and architectures where they could not find in Asmara would also help tourists to satisfy their interest coming here.”
Eritrea’s tourism is blessed with sightseeing, safaris, holiday, vacation, hiking, camel trekking, diving, biking, rock climbing, mountaineering,adventures, plus Asmara, Dahlak and Massawa are the most suitable tourism sites in the Horn region ,he says adding : “Such tourism spots could accommodate tourists’ needs to enjoy in water areas and others. It is also a good opportunity to both countries to satisfy tourists with coordinated effort.”
The visa on arrival system is significant to visit to the country and to see Ethiopia in response. “We are keen to see the development of road transport soon as it is our major infrastructure to help tourists,” Yakob Says. More than 600 tourism operators would work together with Eritrean counterparts to serve tourists when the road infrastructure is available.
According to Ethiopian Tourism Organization Public Relations and Communication Director Getnet Yigzaw, water tourism is a fascinating tourism package. Sports related to water spaces would attract more tourists to the region. And Eritrea is rich in this regard. And this would be important opportunity to Ethiopian tour operators to include Eritrea in their list while planning their annual schedule, he states. On the other hand, the two countries’ tour operators would exchange information each other starting from booking process. This would help Ethiopia to get more tourist flow that comes to Asmara, he notes.
He,therefore, says legalizing tourism opportunities and working in cooperation with officially stakeholders of the two countries are a must . This would be realize soon, if the letter wrote and sent from Ministry of Culture and Tourism to Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) got the needed attention and implementation.
Gezahegn Abate, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Public and International Relations Director said the letter to MoFA requests for facilitation of diplomatic relations and cooperation in the areas of cultural development and tourism promotion. If the ministry properly responds to the request, he says, a memorandum of understanding would be signed between the nations to develop culture and tourism sites in order to attract tourists from the globe.
This would be done through exchanging cultural things through organizing cultural and artistic exhibitions in both countries. The ministry would facilitate the occasions. The two nations have blood relations and cultural similarity, he notes. The current political atmosphere is also important to consolidate cooperation to and develop tourism. “The battles of the bloody war areas might be developed and serve as tourism site.” In the near future, the countries would cooperate each other to develop tourism, rehabilitating tourism sites in the border areas and to fight together against illegal heritage trafficking. The airlines flight and the road transport would help to enhance the opportunity in this regard, he says.
As to him, the ministry would send tourism experts and cultural groups to Asmara in the coming September, Ethiopian new year. And there is also a plan to invite Eritrean counterparts to visit Ethiopia on December 2018. The recent musical concerts, public visits and other programs are supportive to promote cultures among the nations. Private owners and the artists could play important role to make close the people than any other times.
The countries have various languages, cultures and history in common. This could be reflected in music, dancing and dressing styles. This needs a cooperative effort to work together to develop the cultures and to make them a better tourism opportunities. There is also a plan to visit Asmara in August. The Ethiopian National Cultural Center is also planning a schedule in collaboration with Addis Ababa University to conduct cultural studies in order to identify possible mechanisms to promote culture of the two peoples’ and to nurture it for tourism beneficiary, according to Seble Abebe, Center Public and International Relations Director. This would help to properly understand and develop various cultures that the countries have in common, she states.
Therefore identifying cultures, architectures, human and natural tourism treasures would help the two nations to cooperate each other to utilize the sector opportunity. Of course, nurturing tourism is not hard to the two nations that came together erasing the twenty years-long of discord, according to the professionals.