Although Ethiopia has come a long way in terms of achieving economic development, its tourism sector has not reached its full potential especially when compared with other African countries which have taken drastic measures to develop the tourism sector.
Over the years, adjustments in policy and focus has led to the consideration of the tourism sector as one of the economic pillars; and it has opened opportunities for local and international investment. Ethiopia started privatizing state owned businesses to include the private sector’s participation particularly on the hospitality industry. This has significantly contributed to the growth of local and international tourists arrivals, increasing the country’s income from foreign currency. The architectural wonders of Aksum stele, Lalibela’s rock hewn churches, Gondar Castles, Harar’s medieval walled city and archeological sites that traced the origin of humankind to the Rift valley, Danakil and its surrounding nature’s extreme creations continue to put Ethiopia on the spotlight of the traveler’s attention.
The country’s low level of tourism development is attributed to weak promotions, limited number of skilled manpower, inadequate finance and institutional leadership. Even with such limited contribution, tourism keeps on playing a vital role to the country’s political, economic, cultural and environmental developments. On the other hand, it has brought high number of jobs and investments, diversifying the economy from the key activities of import and export. The advance of technology with the coming of tech companies such as Jumia Travel has also initiated the promotion, marketing and development of the hospitality industry bringing hotels in Ethiopia into the dynamics of online global competition.
Being the second most populous nation next to Nigeria with over 95 million people, Ethiopia is posed for untapped opportunity of investment and young skilled labor. The contribution of the tourism industry in Ethiopia was 2 billion dollars in 2013 more than the Tanzania’s 1.7 billion dollars, Kenya’s 1.2 billion dollars and Uganda’s 800 million dollars. However, according to a research done by Tadesse Kidane-Mariam titled ‘Opportunities and Challenges of Tourism Development’ the low revenues from the Ethiopian tourism was partially due to the low fees allocated to parks and tourist sites.
The research reveals that in Ethiopia, the cost of visiting top national parks is five dollars and for other sights 8 dollars for tourists, three dollars for expatriates and a dollar for Ethiopians and students half a dollar. On the other hand, Kenya and Tanzania charge 35 and 65 dollars respectively to visit a park. To improve its revenue, Ethiopia is planning to increase its entrance fee to national parks to 16 dollars to tourists. It’s also proceeding to construct a 10 million Euro giant archeological museum to enhance tourist’s interest in the country. The same research also found that 28% of tourists came for vacation; 22% as transit passengers; 10% to visit relatives; 7% to attend conferences and 14% for unspecified reasons. Out of these, 37% of business and leisure travelers came from Africa; 24% from Europe; 18% from America; 10% from the Middle East; 8% from Asia and 2% from other parts of the world.
Ethiopia has been relying on the tourism sector to bring jobs to its skilled human power to develop and take the country out of poverty. It has undertaken massive local and international promotions during fairs and business conferences. The booming construction of chain and five star hotels has paved the way for the development of infrastructure as well as revealed the untapped opportunities on the sector inviting new investors to the country.
By Eden Sahle from Jumia Travel