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Ethiopia’s strategies to boost tourism, travel hold lessons for Nigeria

Ethiopia’s strategy to grow revenue so as to cushion effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its economy is something Nigeria can learn from, according to a Nigerian tour operator in Addis Ababa.

Doris Nwoke, a tour operator in Tour Brokers International, told BusinessDay that Ethiopia is one of the African countries with old and rich cultural heritage they have been able to preserve and sell as tourist attractions.

Nigeria can take a cue from what Ethiopian Airlines is doing by making consistent efforts to sell its rich cultural heritage to other African countries, Nwoke said.

“There are so many things we have in Nigeria but we are not preserving or promoting them. These people have been able to preserve their culture, modernise it in such a way that they can harness it in terms of tourism.

“Nigeria has a lot to offer to the world, starting from Lagos, to the North, to the East and West; there are destinations and activities in Lagos, Abeokuta, Plateau, Osun, and several other places to promote,” she said.

In recent years, especially this COVID-19 pandemic era, Ethiopia has shown in its consistent efforts to promote its inbound tourism by ensuring ease of travel through its quick-to-process visa on arrival, partnering its major airline, Ethiopian Airlines, to give tourists discounted tickets to encourage more travels into the country, resuscitating some of its major historic events and promoting its tourists sites.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the government of Ethiopia to continue its focus on maintaining efficient air connectivity amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The global aviation body says this will place Ethiopia in a strong position to weather the crisis and speed up the eventual industry and economic recovery.

“We congratulate Ethiopia for the positive steps it has taken to promote travel and air service connectivity throughout the pandemic. This includes accepting vaccinated travellers without restrictions, managing the cost of PCR testing to ensure it is affordable and implementing a testing regime which accepts both PCR and rapid antigen tests.

Read also: Adamawa commits to tourism development

“These measures should put Ethiopia on a faster track to recovery, not just for air transport but across the economy,” Kamil Alawadhi, IATA’s regional vice president for Africa and Middle East, said.

Ethiopia is performing above the African continent’s average demand for air transport services and has made progress in the recovery.

Passenger traffic to, from and within Ethiopia in June 2021 was 30 percent less than in June 2019, a significant improvement on the 47 percent drop for January 2021 compared with January 2019.

Ethiopia’s June performance was well ahead of the -66.6 percent (compared with 2019) recorded for the African continent.

However, passenger demand is expected to recover to pre-COVID levels by 2023.

The country has also opened up its new airport terminal in anticipation for increased passenger traffic in the near future.

A 2020 study carried out by IATA identified air transport and tourism as significant economic enablers for the country.

The report shows that air transport and foreign tourists arriving by air currently support 5.7 percent of the nation’s GDP valued at $4.2 billion and about 1.1 million jobs. Addis Ababa airport is also the base of the Ethiopian Aviation Academy.

IATA has also projected that Ethiopia’s sustained prioritisation of air transport, connectivity, and tourism as a strategic asset, would support an additional 900,000 jobs and at least $9.3 billion of GDP by 2037. If current trends persist, Ethiopia’s air transport market will expand by 226 percent over the next 20 years, with annual passenger journeys increasing from 7.2 million in 2017 to 23.5 million a year by 2037.

According to Thomas Yilma, a tour operator in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian tourism has come up with different strategies and platforms to promote tourism.

One of the platforms, he says, is setting up a new tourism office that is directly accountable to the prime minister.

Tour operators and staff are given discounted tickets to visit various countries to experience different destinations and learn from what other countries are doing, so as to replicate them in Addis Ababa, he told BusinessDay.

He also said the Ethiopian tourism board and Ethiopian Airlines work together to increase tourist visits into the country by providing various promotional packages for travellers.

IATA had earlier stated that Ethiopia’s commitment to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) was for African aviation as the government’s ongoing efforts to increase SAATM adoption among other Africa states would provide a significant boost for aviation in Ethiopia and the continent.

Much needed infrastructure capacity for Ethiopia was provided by the opening of the second terminal at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.

Ethiopia’s facilitation of air cargo through its customs and borders regulations ranks 86th out of 124 countries in terms of the worldwide Air Trade Facilitation Index (ATFI) and 42nd out of 135 countries in terms of the eFreight Friendliness Index (EFFI) globally.

By implementing policies facilitating the frictionless movement of air cargo the country hopes to strengthen its position as a leading cargo hub for East Africa.

Some of Ethiopia’s top tourism attractions include Danakil Depression, Lalibela, Harar, Babile Elephant Sanctuary, the Rift Valley and the Blue Nile Falls, Omo Valley and Gondar, among several others.

The country’s top festivals bringing people from all over the world include Ethiopian Christmas (Leddet/Genna) (January 7), Epiphany (Timket) (January 19), Enkutatash (New Year) (September 11), Meskel (Finding of the True Cross) (September 27) and Great Ethiopian Run (November), among others.

Nwoke however mentioned that people are scared of coming to Nigeria because of security issues.

For tourism to thrive and begin to contribute significantly to Nigeria’s economy, the government would need to address its security issues and support the Nigerian Tourism Board, Nwoke said.

“Inbound tourism is the future of Africa. The more the government supports inbound tourism the better. That way, we are able to bring in people,” she said.

Experts have listed top tourism attractions Nigeria can promote to include Ibeno Beach in Akwa Ibom State, Obudu Mountain Resort in Cross River State, Ngwo Pine Forest in Enugu State, Awhum Waterfall in Enugu State, Arochukwu Long Juju Slave Route in Abia State, the Giant Footprint of Ukhuse Oke in Edo State, Port Harcourt Tourist Beach in Rivers State, Gashaki-Gumpti National Park in Taraba State, Isaac Boro Garden Park in Port Harcourt, Osun-Osogbo Grove in Osun State, Emotan Statue in Benin City, and Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa State, among several others.

Between 2010 and 2018, the average share of employment in travel and tourism in total employment in Ethiopia was 8.4 percent. Kenya’s tourism sector—pre-pandemic— employed about 1 million workers, accounting for 9.2 percent of total workers.

In Rwanda, tourism employs more than 3 percent of the labour force, including low-skilled workers. Ten million tourists visited South Africa in 2017—by far the most in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, there were an estimated 849,000 formal private sector jobs in tourism there, representing 5 percent of total employment. In Uganda, tourism firms employ a high share of youth in their total work force (47.5%), according to Brookings Institute.

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