By Berhane Hailemariam
The financial support will be used to support the coordination efforts of the tourism organisation
The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation has pledged 28 million Br to support the hospitality industry in Ethiopia.
The financial support will be used to support the coordination efforts of the Ethiopian Tourism Organisation in the hospitality industry, especially conference tourism.
Fitsum Arega, chief of staff at the Prime Minister’s Office and chairperson of the newly formed National Tourism Board, announced the pledge at a press conference held at Jupiter Hotel on August 13, 2018. Special packages for Ethiopian diaspora returning for the Ethiopian New year was also announced.
“The World Bank reached this decision after consecutive discussions with the board,” said Fitsum.
The World Bank plans to provide technical assistance to the organisation to improve institutional capacity, enhance management of conference tourism and launch stopover tourism.
The Hotel Owners Trade Association is also currently developing a strategy that caters specifically to conference tourism.
“They are high-yield visitors with minimal negative environmental and socio-cultural impact,” says Benyam Bisrat, member of the Tourism Board and president of the Addis Abeba Hotel Owners Association. “Developing such a strategy will assist us in overcoming issues related to seasonality.”
The Association will publish the strategy for Addis Abeba towards the end of September, followed by a conference guide for the capital and its surroundings in October.
Tourism is one of the nation’s biggest earners of foreign currency. During the last fiscal year, 3.5 billion dollars was generated from the sector, and 933,000 tourists visited the country. On average, a tourist spends two to three days in the capital, according to estimates by the World Economic Forum.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) recently extended a welcome to the diaspora community of Ethiopia. The board has since reached a consensus with private players in the hospitality industry to provide incentive packages.
Ethiopian Airlines, the Immigration & Nationality Affairs Main Department, the Tour Operators Association and the Hotel & Taxi Owners Association have pledged to offer their services with a 25pc discount from August 15 to for the hotels they pledged the discount for accommodation September 30, 2018.
The Prime Minister has also recently assigned Lensa Mekonnen, an event organiser and tour operator, to head the organisation. The tourism organization, which is managed by the board, was established in 2014 with the aim of promoting tourism destinations, development and marketing.
Teshome Fantahun, with more than ten years experience in the tourism industry and a lecturer at Catering & Tourism Training Institute at St. Mary University, believes that there is a long road to go before conference tourism can be exploited in Ethiopia.
He believes that expensive hotel and transportation prices, poor customer service and lack of skilled human power are holding the hospitality industry back.
“The first thing to do is to recognise the necessity of conference tourism to our economy and utilise all our potential for its development,” he said. “An agency that sets standards and centralises the efforts of the different stakeholders would also benefit conference tourism.”