High fees at tourist sites making Ethiopia an “expensive” destination

A $50 fee levied on individual visitors at Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches is “unacceptable”

Members of the Ethiopian Tour Operators’ Association and travel agencies warned at a Monday meeting in Bahir Dar that Ethiopia is becoming a pretty expensive destination due to soaring fees at touristic sitesThe Reporter has learnt.

Members of Parliament, officials of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT) and the Amhara Culture and Tourism Bureau also echoed the same concern that unreasonable price hikes in hotel accommodation rates and soaring entrance fees together with unregulated guide fees are making Ethiopia one of the most expensive destinations.

The tour operators argued that some fees are adjusted without prior notice, discomforting most travelers. Unexpected hikes in hotel rates, church entrance fees and the like are often made during peak seasons of the year, and tour operators cited a 300-percent hike in the price of entrance fees as a case in point. A USD 50 fee levied on individual visitors at Lalibela’s rock-hewn churches is “unacceptable,” as some visitors have complained. On top of exorbitant prices, ethical behaviors and language skills are some of the issues local guides have been blamed for. Hence, tour operators demanded that such concerns be addressed.

Local guides, on their part, argued that fees are set based on the tariffs set by local administrations and churches. They also argued that escort guides sent by tour operators are the ones that violate the norms and traditions of communities across destinations.

Having listened to both sides, Meaza Gebre-Madhin, state minister of MoCT, said that local guides and tour operators should focus on working towards mutually inclusive benefits. She also said the ministry would devise a system that enables local guides receive proper training. She promised that fees and prices would be set based on the consent of stakeholders.

The state minister counterclaimed that some of the rates, such as entrance fees set for visits to rock-hewn churches at Lalibella, are relatively reasonable. “A USD 50 per person set for a visit to 10 churches at Lalibela shouldn’t be seen as expensive. But we can argue whether a visitor who wants to visit one or two churches should be asked to pay the same amount,” Meaza said.

That said, the tourism sector is expected to fetch USD 4.2 billion in revenues this Ethiopian fiscal year (EFY) despite the prevailing political crisis. Some 1.2 million visitors are expected to come. The state minister argues that unlike the poor performances of last year, the sector is showing a remarkable turn this fiscal year. During the first quarter of this EFY, USD 960 million has been generated and some 250,000 travelers have entered the country.

Source: The Reporter