Ethiopia tourism industry infrastructure development

Ethiopia's Simien Mountains National Park is one of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country [Ethiopian Tourism Organization]
Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park is one of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country [Ethiopian Tourism Organization]

Can Ethiopia boost economic growth and eradicate poverty without ruining the very treasure it wants to promote?

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia –  A small plaque on this tiny deserted hillock deep in the forests of Kaffa, a province in western Ethiopia, bears an inscription in Amharic and English indicating that this is the birthplace of Ethiopia’s gift to the world: Arabica coffee, as locals will also confirm.

The plaque, hidden in the grass of the overgrown vegetation and invasive forest border, symbolises what has long hampered Ethiopia’s tourism industry. Despite a cultural, historical and linguistic identity quite distinct from the rest of Africa, Ethiopia never became a major tourist destination on the continent.

Where other countries would proclaim the news, beckoning tourists to come, Ethiopia never seemed that bothered by this fact. But this modest attitude is beginning to change.

In August this year the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism made a bold announcement that it intended to triple foreign visitors to more than 2.5 million by 2020, with an ultimate goal of making Ethiopia a feature in Africa’s Top 5 tourist destinations by 2020.

“Key tourism factors such as easy and fast growing air access, personal safety and local hospitality, rapid economic growth and, above all, fascinating discoveries to be made bode very well for rapid tourism growth,” said Mike Fabricius of South Africa-based The Journey, a tourism consultancy company.

Not everyone, however, is so sure about the wisdom of chasing those numbers.

Read more at: Al Jazeera

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