Tour operators appeal airport ban

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -Ethiopian tour operators are complaining that the suspension of entrance to non-travelers to the Bole International Airport Terminal over the past two months is obstructing their duties.

The tour operators contended that the ban on entrance to non-travelers has created difficulties in receiving and handling prospective customers and their luggage, especially those that are first time travelers to Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Airports Enterprise suspended visits by non-travelers to the Bole International Airport terminal for undisclosed reasons almost two months back, though there was some speculation at the time that it could be related to security concerns.

Assefa Azene, President of Ethiopian Tour Operators Association (ETOA), said that about a month ago the enterprise was allowing only two employees assigned by the agency to handle their customers after the Association raised concerns.

Operators told Capital that the number restriction is adversely influencing their business. “Every day we have to handle many groups of visitors or tourists, and due to that the enterprise has to consider allowing us to have more employees in the terminal, one operator said.

“If the issue is related with national security we have to cooperate with the enterprise decision,Assefa said. “Currently the business is in the low season so we are not that adversely affected by the new system but when the peak tourism season comes, additional tour operator employees have to be allowed to get in the terminal for the efficient handling of tourists, he added.

“As the terminal is far from the parking lot, we have to look after our customers at the terminal because it would be difficult for travelers to manage their entire luggage, tour operators explained.

A few weeks ago, members of the Association discussed the issue with the board about the situation in terms of how they could solve the problem.

Since the opening of the new terminal about a decade ago, the non-traveler side of the terminal was open to all visitors. About two months ago the Civil Aviation Authority closed it, without divulging any reason(s).

ETOA is playing a major role for tour operators by working closely with the government towards solving problems faced in the sector.

Over the past few years, the Association’s members has increased significantly and become stronger with some 167 members. ETOA organizes and participates in many meetings with high government officials in regards to further developing tourism in Ethiopia and discussing constraints that affect the industry and tour operators.