Tourism, the untapped industry in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is rich in history, nature and diverse culture. Naturally, it is endowed with a number of breathtaking natural wonders. It has an abundant, magnificent and unique cultures and spiritual festivals. These festivals are diverse in their nature and practices. The very unique way they are performed make all them entertaining and attractive.
Ethiopia is a land of multiculturalism. If one joins such festivals, he or she will come across with harmonious but uniquely colored and decorated performances. People live in with different beliefs harmoniously. Either been originated from religious base or cultural, the festivals are full of traditional performances such as group chores, traditional games, traditional clothing accompanied by blessings.
Celebration of the finding of the true cross, locally called “Mesikel” on the eve of world tourism day, and the Oromo people thanks giving day, “Irrecha” have been celebrated this month. Those days are celebrated with a sense of togetherness in a manner of Holy Spirit, to promote peace and harmony among the community.
Apart from their religion value, the aforementioned holidays play vital role to tighten community belongingness and harmony. Meskel is one of the prominent holidays being celebrated for years to commemorate the finding of the True Cross. The celebration which is accompanied with bonfire, locally called “Demera”, religious chores, cultural foods and blessing of elders, is now also becoming an annual festivity attended by hundreds of foreigners.
Similarly, Irrech is a thanks giving day of Oromo people who encourages togetherness and peace between societies as a whole. It is also a symbol of transition to a new bright season after the darkened and rainy season. Irrecha is also a festivity with eye-catching traditional performances and traditional songs.
The aforementioned two, and of course other similar worth attending festivities, would be ideal stages for foreigners to see how traditional festivities are harmoniously performed from the natural setting. The visit on the other hand plays tremendous role to boost the tourism sector for the nation too.
Today, tourism is a major source of income for many regions and even the entire countries. The Manila Declaration on World Tourism, recognized its importance as an activity essential to the life of nations because of its direct effects on the social, cultural, economic values of societies and their relations.
Contrary to wider opportunities, the contribution of tourism in Ethiopia’s socio-economic development has always been insignificant. The tourism industry is a vital, dynamic and evolving industry. It brings large amounts of hard currency into a local economy in the form of payment for goods and services needed by tourists.
But, Ethiopia has not been succeeded in valuing and promoting its tourism resources at the desired level. Although sources indicated that, Ethiopia continues to demonstrate steady rise in the number of visitors, the share of the sector in the economy is still meager. Limited infrastructural facilities and standard hotels contributed a lot for the shortage. Meaningful efforts are highly needed from concerned bodies to transform the sector’s service delivery.
World travel and tourism council 2017 forecast and Ministry of Culture and Tourism sustainable tourism master plan from 2015 to 2025, addresses the development and the contribution of tourism to the country’s GDP. Noticeably, the total contribution to the country’s GDP 10.3 percent in 2013 and expected to grow by 4.3 Percent. The total GDP contribution is 9.0 percent to the country’s GDP by 2024. This primarily reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services.
Further, Ministry of tourism and culture performance report revealed that, Ethiopia has secured 3.5 billion USD from tourism in the past Ethiopian fiscal year. Out of the plan to attract 1.25 million visitors, 934, 923 tourists visited the country and generated 3.5 billion USD.
Ethiopia has nine UNESCO registered world heritage sites. On top of that, the ministry registered 25,997 permanent and 1,769 intangible historical and cultural heritages at the national level. However the revenue the country generates from the sector is meager compared to the potential.
So far, Ethiopia has not really promoted its tourism very aggressively by implying a value adding perspectives to the tourism development. This would have helped to changing the negative image of the nation. Thus the government and stakeholders should exert their effort to develop and change the way the sector act in generating its parts to the economy as well as image bulding.