Tourism remained to be an imperative contributor to the economy and sustainable development in Ethiopia and beyond. Tourism is often backed as a means to diversify economic conditions in rural and urban areas by providing alternative sources of employment and income generation.
The lucrative industry can contribute to the development of rural areas through public and private sector investment in new infrastructure and facilities. Over the next decade, the domestic and international tourism environment globally and within Ethiopia is predicted to be very competitive and increasingly volatile attributable to the current high demand of customers that has led to massive investment on infrastructure.
Given the significance of tourism to the Ethiopia’s overall economies and the volatility of domestic tourism in Ethiopia, it is imperative that tourism is maintained and enhanced as an economic driver for the local economy. It’s planned and managed in a sustainable way to enhance and conserve the ancient historical sights and protect the environment to attract visitors with shared values. Despite the country success stories attracting growing number of visitors, the country is yet to implement all best practices of the tourism industry.
Often best practice of tourism policies establish long-term strategic planning processes to guide the sustainable management, development and marketing of tourism. The first thing vital is to bring the communities and policymakers together to share technical, communication and facilitation skills to effectively tap into local networks to lead the strategic planning process. Tourism consultants also play a great role for tourism planning as they can bring in fresh expert advice to transform the sector at bigger level. Having the government on board with full commitment to the sector not only benefit the sector but also it guarantee the success of the sector enhancing the country’s competitiveness at the regional and global level.
Being able to establish a shared vision amongst all stakeholders predict the success of the industry. On the other hand conducting utility and industry research and current and future market assessment enables the country to make informed decisions and plans on the industry. Identification of existing and upcoming facilities and competitor destinations, enhancing airline capacity as well as tourist preferences and prediction of future trends will allow Ethiopia to break out from the barriers fully benefiting from the tourism industry. Such positive initiatives supported by regular framework of review of the plans and strategies allow timely adjustments without severely affecting the industry. This will also permit to identify areas where strategies and actions need to change due to unforeseeable condition facilitating learning amongst stakeholders about sustainable tourism.
The next vital component Ethiopia should focus on would be destination marketing. It has traditionally been aligned to growth oriented strategies that have mainly focused on image creation, advertising and sales promotion aimed at achieving growth in domestic and international vacation. Nevertheless, recent studies shows that destination marketing should adopt a sustainable approach where marketing is integrated with sustainable destination management and development objectives to ensure the needs of both visitors and residents are met in the practical implementation of tourism strategies. This is to mean that marketing has a twofold approach to conserve the resources of a tourist destination as well as to provide a high quality visitor experience. Rather than the customary view that marketing simply involves selling and promoting places, destination marketing is a more broader and strategic tourism management tool that should provide a balance between stakeholder’s objectives for the development of tourism in the country as well as ensure the sustainability of the destination’s resources.
Hence, destination marketing should not be in opposition to other principles of sustainable tourism development as marketing can in fact be used as a management tool to ensure that the aimed tourism strategy is developed, to take account of tourism capacity and visitor management capacities. Destination marketing should therefore serve as an instrument to facilitate regional development objectives to ensure that the strategic objectives of destinations are achieved. Certainly, effective marketing provides a strategic tourism management tool that can provide a balance between stakeholder’s objectives for the development of tourism in the country as well as ensure the sustainability of the destination’s resources.
As one of the biggest industries in the globe, tourism has huge constructive socioeconomic, cultural and environmental impacts. Over the year’s tourism as a business have sprung up worldwide in an effort to make the industry the biggest revenue source. With this development tourism industry experienced a dynamic shift from offline to online tourism with the coming of tech companies such as Jumia Travel and Expedia. An increasing number of consumers at any part of the world are not dependent on travel agencies anymore to look for information and inspiration to plan travel. Ethiopia is no exception to this. Consumers heavily rely on internet to make leisure or business travel decision. Progressively the tourism industry is making use of these new and innovative technologies and applications making even the remote places accessible. This in turn empowered travelers bringing everything at their fingertips. Although this is a remarkable and welcomed improvement for countries such as Ethiopia basic internet connection and lack of access at some part of the country still pose challenge to the growth of tourism.
However investments are underway increasing internet coverage throughout the country. Ethiopia is connected to the international internet via satellite, a fiber-optic cable that passes through Sudan and connects to its international gateway, and the SEACOM cable that connects through Djibouti to an international undersea cable. All connections to the international internet are completely centralized to Ethio Telecom. Currently, South and East African countries including Ethiopia rely on satellites and has just 0.07 % of the world’s international bandwidth capacity. Access to Information Communications Technology (ICTs) has been progressively improving, according to May 2015 data from Akamai’s “State of the Internet” report, Ethiopia has an average connection speed of 1.8 Megabytes Per Second (Mbps); an encouraging figure compared to the global average of 3.9 Mbps.
Fortified by such tech progresses, global international tourist arrivals are expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2020 and 1.8 billion by the year 2030. Africa, Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Eastern Mediterranean Europe, and the Middle East will grow at double rate registering over 4.4% growth per year while other developed countries will register a little over 2.2% a year. On the other hand, international tourist arrivals in the emerging economies like Ethiopia are expected to exceed those in advanced economies in the next four years.
To stay above the tourism competition and to bank on the industry as development catalyst, Ethiopia have drafted strategic plans to develop the sector. Although, the extent to which the actual implementation of those plans remain to be a significant challenge, the country is continuously putting significant effort into advancing travel and tourism industry with great initiative to incorporate best practices of the industry.
By Eden Sahle