Ethiopia: Untold stories of a country’s tourism possibilities

Bet Giyorgis, Lalibela, Ethiopia
Bet Giyorgis, Lalibela, Ethiopia
Bet Giyorgis, Lalibela, Ethiopia
Bet Giyorgis, Lalibela, Ethiopia

By Ruth Oluronbi, Nigerian Tribune

Report of Ruth Olurounbi who just back from Addis Ababa on how the Ethiopian government plans to lead other African nations in tourism.

IN order to promote the growing tourism industry in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the trio of Ethiopian Airline, owned 100 per cent by the Ethiopian government, the Ethopian embassy in Nigeria and the Boston Partners Plc, owners of leading resorts and spa business in the country, teamed up to give Nigerian tour operators and travel agents a six-day familiarisation tour into the heart of a country, which had otherwise been labelled as famine-ravaged.

A cultural tour through the cities and villages of Ethiopia revealed refreshing abundance of natural, historical and cultural resources, which add up to its tourist attraction. That Ethiopia was once known as a country ravaged by famine, it was refreshing to notice green lands in an otherwise desert land, thanks to massive and beautiful lakes in the country, which serve as source of water for irrigation system of farming. Through the irrigation system for its agriculture, Ethiopia has been able to provide food for its country people, without having to depend so much on importation of food from other country, a government official said.

Being the only African country that was not colonised by the West, not for the wont of trying by the latter, Ethiopia has had its share of ups and downs but now, it is time to move on.

In a bold move, the country, in the last few years, looked within and found something else to market to the world, apart from its national carrier, the Ethiopian Airlines, which has been generating revenue for it in the last 65 years. Now, for Ethiopia, it was time for its tourism industry to complement the airline’s efforts.

According to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the country had launched a massive campaign in Europe, Asia, and some parts of the African continent to promote the country’s growing tourism industry.

The outcome of the campaign had been very impressive, the ministry attested, saying with the distinct advantage of being the political base of Africa, the country’s tourism industry had received a boost, as far as conference tourism was concerned, but not so much on leisure tourism.

The Director, Marketing and Development in the ministry, Mr Ayele Gelaneh, said that leisure was big on the country’s touristic menu it packaged to offer the world, which unfortunately, had not been known much, especially in Africa. This is why, according to Gelaneh, Ethiopia, through its airlines and its embassy in joint partnership with a private leisure business owner in the country, the president and chief executive officer of Boston Partners Plc, Mr Tadiwos Belete, invited Nigerian tour operators, travel agents and other stakeholders in travel business in Nigeria to a six-day tour of the country’s “beautiful, natural, historical and cultural attractions,” with the view of showcasing the tourism potential of Ethiopia, aimed at enhancing inflow of tourists between the two countries.

Speaking on security, Gelaneh said last week during a chat with journalists at Kuriftu Resorts and Spa, Debre-Zeit that Ethiopia was safe for tourists, adding that the country “is very conducive for local and international investors who are interested in doing business in Ethiopia. The country is free to people all over the country and I would want you all to regard Ethiopia as your homes.”

The director said the country was appreciative of the influx of African conference tourists on its soil disclosing that the country was focusing its attention on attracting leisure tourists in the world, especially Africa, to “come and enjoy our diverse natural tourist attractions.”

Gelaneh, who boasted that the country, by 2020 would have been the sixth tourist destination in Africa, said Ethiopia has an “enormous untold stories in our rich cultural, natural and historical attractions, which we are inviting the world to come and experience.”

He then called for partnership with the Nigerian tourism industry for mutually beneficial development of the two countries.

As part of the incentives to woo tourists into the country, Ethiopian Airlines offered its passengers “pre-arranged domestic flight discount packages from international Star Alliance networks,” so the airline would be able to increase traffic flow into the country, to promote it as the destination “as a major tourist attraction,” the chief executive officer of the Airlines, Mr Tewolde GebreMariam, said.

Speaking on the national carrier, GebreMariam said Ethiopian Airlines, during the past 65 plus years, has “become one of the continent’s leading carriers, unrivalled in Africa for efficiency and operational success, turning profits for almost all the years of its existence.” He was quick to add that the airline had also become one of Ethiopia’s major industries and a veritable institution in Africa.

GebreMariam also said that the airline “commands a lion’s share of the pan- African network, including the daily and double daily East-West flight across the continent, while noting that Ethiopian Airlines currently serves 64 international destinations operating the newest and youngest fleets.”

The Addis Ababa Bole International Airport is the major hub for Ethiopian Airlines and one of the largest airports in Africa. The ultra-modern airport terminal which was inaugurated on January 21, 2003, handles all international flights with “its 21st century facilities,” the chief executive also said, while making it a point to note that “Addis Airport is the busiest airport in East Africa with a capacity of providing a world class passenger and cargo services to more than 6.5 billion international and domestic passengers each year.”

GebreMariam, while saying that the airline’s mission was to contribute positively to the socio-economic development of Ethiopia in particular and the countries it operates in general by undertaking its corporate social responsibilities and providing vital global air connectivity, said that by 2025, “Ethiopian Airlines will be the most competitive and leading aviation group in Africa by providing safe, market driven and customer-focused passenger and Cargo Transport, Aviation Training, Flight Catering, Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO), Ground Services, Domestic and regional services.”

To be able to effectively achieve this goal, the airline is expecting to take a delivery of 10 Boeing 787 sometimes in June for which it had already placed an order.

The manager, Passenger Market Development, Mr Solomon Dawit, while speaking on the earlier mentioned domestic flight discount packages, during a tour to the Ethiopian Airlines’ headquarters in Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, said the airline had slashed its fare price by $200 for tourist-passengers visit to the country.
Dawit said that the reduction in price was effective immediately and would only be made available to its passengers who were on tourism visits to the country from across the globe and most especially Africa.

At a dinner party held for the tour operators and travel agents at the Kuriftu Diplomat lounge, Bole Road, Addis Ababa, chief executive officer of Boston Partners Plc, Mr Belete, said it was time Africa took its rightful place on the global development, adding that Ethiopia was on the path of leading the continent to achieve just that.

He then urged the operators to promote the country in positive lights, saying that with concerted efforts at developing the country through national development programmes and tourism, the country would experience speedy economic growth. He was full of optimisim that Ethopia was ready to promote the Nigerian tourism industry.

Responding on behalf of other operators and travel agents, the Chief Executive Officer of Globenet Travels & Tours Limited and wife of Kogi State governor, Mrs Faridah Wada, said she was impressed with Ethiopia’s growing tourism industry and tourism potential adding that the tourism industry in the country had been an eyeopener for the Nigerians who went on the familiarisation tour of Ethiopia. She then thanked the Ethiopian government and its partners for their interest in Nigeria.

Tour operators who spoke with the Nigerian Tribune on the trip charged the Nigerian Government to put infrastructure in place to develop its own potentially massive tourism industry.

The vice-president of National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies, Abuja Zone and the Managing director of All States Travel And Tour, Alhaji Saleh Rabo, urged the Federal Government to find a lasting solution to the security situation in the country, saying the recurring security breach in the country would hamper tourism development in the country.