Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Solomon Tadesse is the Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopian Tourism Organization (ETO. Most of his life, Solomon lived in the US. During the time of the emperor and later the Derg, he associated himself with the student movement.
He maintained close contact with the current government in those early days and was bold in talking about the economic, political and social policies of the existing government. Now he is back home for a new assignment as head the newly-established ETO.Birhanu Fikade of The Reporter sat down with Solomon at his office to talk about the future of the tourism sector to which the former consul general to the US was assigned to lead. Excerpts:
You have said from the economic plan perspectives, you have USD three billion birr revenue to generate from the tourism sector and double the number of tourists to one million. Do you think that is attainable?
Yes, well the question is, as I said, what is driving us and that what we thought is behind what we think to be not attainable. It’s in our history. I am not just saying this out of emotions or nationalism but those are the things we need to do to get there. We in Ethiopia today may be the only people in the world who have all the diverse realities of life, nature, history, wildlife and landscape in every aspect of it. When we ask those questions we will see what the things are that we need to do. We need to put things into perspective. The fundamental one is that we need to challenge our standard. Are we on par with..? Is our standard acceptable in a world of global tourism destinations? If not, what are the solutions we need to bring for that? We need to upgrade our destinations. We will involve all the stakeholders like the tour operators, hotel operators, and destination operators. Intervention is important to maintain the flow of tourism. Improving the existing destinations as well as developing new ones is what we will do. Basically, we need to really clean up our house first and make it attractive for the tourists coming and be sure they will keep on coming. We need to prepare ourselves for that. Our first task is to really see the low hanging fruits, which need to be grabbed and taken out of the way. Eventually, we are talking about 2015 or 2020. We have to have a holistic approach because tourism is the face of the Ethiopian government. Policies coming out by different offices will affect us. Without compromising our peace and security, there are issues that tend to be obstacles for our development and we will work with the government to remove those. Once we have identified a way we can clean our house, we will then bring a sellable product. We have set up our ultimate goals. We need to identify the capacities to get us there. We will look at every stakeholders in all aspects. Once we have developed products, the next issue will be how to market it. The best marketing practices will be looked at. But it has to be an Ethiopian way. We cannot say we want to market the way Kenya is marketing. The mandate given to us basically is marketing a product or a destination. We have to solicit investors for that task. We have to facilitate them to come and invest in both the existing and the newly-developed destinations. We have already set up acceptable standards. We work with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. They will regulate and foresee the policies into perspective. Capacity building, working with stakeholders and identifying sellable products and marketing and facilitating and coordinating things for investors are the core tasks we will work on. That is a long-term process.
Read more at: The Reporter