The past two years had been particularly hard on Ethiopia’s tourism sector. The political unrest in Oromia, Amhara and Ethio-Somali regional states have stained the relatively peaceful Ethiopian political environment. Tourism was the first sector to take a hit after the outbreak of the unrest. What is puzzling is the fact that official figures are telling a different story. In spite of the unrest, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism reports that the sector has never been better in terms of tourist flow and revenue, write Asrat Seyoum and Birhanu Fikade.
Filled with a lot of hopes and dreams, on March 14, 2014, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalgen launched two specialized government bodies – Ethiopian Tourism Transformation Council and Ethiopian Tourism Organization – to usher in an era of transformation in the dormant Ethiopian tourism sector. At the official inaugural ceremony held at the conference hall of the UNECA, Hailemariam announced that the Council, chaired by him, would provide a strategic guidance to the tittering tourism sector with view of dramatically improving the foreign exchange earning of the nation.
“Ethiopia has been portrayed negatively in the international arena for long,” the PM reiterated; however, he noted “such trends are changing quickly” and what needs to be done is keep the momentum going and capitalize on the gains. In this regard, the council would focus on development of tourist destinations and marketing and image improving of the nation as whole at the global arena.
True to form, Hailemariam’s administration had big plans for the sector in the years to follow. For one, Ethiopia had a target to become one of the top tourist destinations in Africa by 2020 attracting more than 2.5 million visitors a year and raking USD six billion in form of revenue.
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