See Ethiopia’s capital, think Dubai

Emirates is both an inspiration and a competitor for Ethiopian Airlines, which seeks to benefit from a major government drive to promote investment in tourism.

There is no shortage of customers flowing in and out of Addis Ababa’s Boston Day Spa.

When owner Tadiwos Belete built it 12 years ago, he was a lonely voice promoting Ethiopia as a tourism destination.

Today, hotels and spas are mushrooming all over the capital, but some old preconceptions persist.

“My biggest challenge is to convince the rest of the world to visit. Ethiopia is still known for hunger and starvation,” says Belete, now one of country’s most celebrated hospitality entrepreneurs.

Ethiopia’s tourism sector has much to offer.

Between its nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the 12th century monolithic rock-cut churches at Lalibela, the breathtaking Simien Mountains in the north and the Omo Valley in the south, Ethiopia is endowed with a combination of cultural heritage sites and natural beauty that is unequalled on the continent.

Despite these treasures, the East African country attracted just 596,000 tourists in 2012, putting it in 15th place on the continent. Things are changing though.

In 2014, the Ethiopian Tourism Organisation estimated arrivals at more than 800,000. The country’s ambitious Growth and Transformation Plan includes the goal of boosting that number to more than one million by the end of 2015.

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