Developing the hotel industry to better tap tourism
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The hotel industry is presently a multi-billion dollar industry employing millions of people across the world. The industry has a wide range of components that include food and accommodation services, meetings and events, entertainment and recreation and tourism services. These services in turn are vital for the development of the tourism industry by creating adequate hospitality to the tourists that visit a country. For a country to adequately exploit its tourism resources, it needs to have highly qualified and up to the standard hotel facilities and warm hospitality. Though Ethiopia is endowed with many natural and man-made heritages that could attract millions of tourists every year, the country did not properly tap the sector for years.
Presently the country is one of the African countries that possess the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the continent. With nine world heritage sites spread throughout the country, the country has every opportunity to attract international tourists and to set itself as one of the leading tourist recipient countries in the world.
According to a strategic development plan document for the sector, the government has prioritized tourism development to optimize the existing tourism resources as a driving force of economic growth for the whole country. As the country has a strategic importance in the Horn of Africa for most countries, it hosts many international meetings and conferences. This gives comparative advantages to further develop conference tourism in the country. There is a growing demand for accommodation at an international standard and even an increase in such a demand is expected in the future as the country is attracting more international organizations who are strengthening their institutions and augmenting their personnel in Ethiopia.
The supply of accommodation, even if it is improving since recently, has been far below the level needed to meet the demand. Still there are only few five star hotels and a handful of hotels of international standard exist in the States. Known places of tourist attraction like Lalibela, Axum and Gondar still need better standard hotels, lodges and restaurants. But the sharp rise in demand is attracting more investors who are presently developing many hotels and lodges in different parts of the country.
Coordinator of the Directorate for Quality Assurance of Tourism Services with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Sisay Tekle, says as the number of people who arrive for different purposes from different corners of the world to the country is increasing more than ever before, tourism service providing facilities are booming in different parts of the country which never experienced visitors for decades before. He added the country is presently hosting more than half a million visitors every year. The number of hotels, restaurants, travel agencies has comparatively increased in the last few years, he noted. He indicated the number of hotels, with different standards in the country has increased tenfold within the last couple of decades. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is working with the aim to create clear intervention strategies to better enable existing tourism-based services both in the capital and states of the country.
The Ministry has provided trainings to professionals and higher officials of the Culture and Tourism offices of the states especially in due focus to license provision, quality assurance and professional ethics in the sector. The trainees have widely discussed issues related to the newly prepared code of conduct for tourism by the Ministry. The new code of conduct is said to be vital for the development of responsible and sustainable tourism in the country. It is also hoped to foster friendly ties among different nations and nationalities. Side by side with expanding the socio economic effects of the sector the code of conduct is expected to prevent the negative scenarios witnessed in the main tourist destinations of the country with more engagement of the society.
The coordinator says the new code of conduct would make tourist service organizations to be accountable to national, state and local regulations. The code of conduct compels the organizations to provide their services in such a way that suits the protection of environmental and historical heritages. They are obliged to provide services in accordance with their agreement with the customers. The tourist service would be given with a fair cost for the quality and standard of service. The organizations are expected to employ better qualified personnel and regularly improve their capacities. The employees of the tourist service organizations are expected to comprehend and obey the code of conduct of the sector.
Sisay says in addition to building new hotels, restaurants and lodges the already existing tourist service centres are undertaking expansion schemes and incorporating new services. The Ministry is working to clearly set the standard of the hotels in the country based on internationally accepted grounds. It aims to set the standards that should be fulfilled by ordinary level hotels and improve the level of hotels at star levels. The newly set standard would increase the quality of existing hotels and those under construction and could create better capacity to host more international conferences and tourists. He says though around five hundred hotels are serving as tourist destinations, their standards are yet to be set in the near future. The standard of construction, the service provided level of safety and security to customers, hygiene and sanitation, level of employees, quality of bedrooms and incorporated services and the quality of restaurant and recreational services would be considered in the standardization process, he noted.
The Ministry is consulting with states to undertake coordinated inspection and control duties. These duties aim at further strengthening the capacity of tourist service organizations by supporting them to fill the gaps they face in service provision. However, those who fail to fulfill the required standards after all the support and inspection tasks are accomplished might face legal measures, he says.
Though the number of tourists visiting the country has increased from 230 thousand to more than half a million within the last five years, it still remains one of the lowest as compared to other African countries such as Egypt and South Africa. The country possesses more world heritage sites than these countries but they are not fully utilized at the moment. The negative image of the country as a country of poverty, drought and starvation is one of the impediments to promote Ethiopia as a tourist destination and therefore, the image building strategy could play crucial role in boosting the industry.
Further development of the hotel industry in the country could improve the level of hospitality in the country and help change the image of the country among the tourists it hosts and in the international community. Utilizing the hotels as mediums to showcase the country’s cultural, historical and man-made heritages is the other issue that needs due emphasis in the task to develop the industry. Hotel and Tourism institutions should better capacitate themselves to provide better qualified personnel who could enable the sector improve hospitality at large.
Source: Ethiopian Herald