Abyssinia Business Network /ABN/
FetehWeldesenbt is President of the Ethiopian Hotel and Related Service Employers’ Federation and the PhD candidate in Hotel Marketing at a university abroad. He also serves as General Manager of Central Hawassa Hotel and working in the hotel and tourism sector for a long time. He is one of the founders of the National Hotels Owners’ Federation, representing the hotel and related service owners at the national level for the first time. He speaks on various issues with ABN.
How was your organization established?
We had a structural and a representation motive to establish the federation. You may be aware that just two or three years ago there was only which association which represents the specific place and there was no any national representation for the hotel and tourism sector.
According to proclamation 377/96 and the International Labor Convention 87, more than ten single employers can establish an association; more than two associations can establish a federation and more than two federations can establish a confederation. In the context of Ethiopia the employees established their federation for long time and they have worked to protect their members’ interest strongly.
Next to tell you this background, as more associations are established and representing their members in the stages of the negotiations of their interests with the government and the employee delegates. To this end the sector needs its own national representation and the 11 regional and city hotel owners associations have met and established this national federation two years ago and now we all have national representation and work on behalf of hotel and related service owners.
How do you describe the hotel industry in Ethiopia?
Hotel sector in Ethiopia is an untouched sector and dramatically growing sector when compared to others. When you see the influence of the sector and the attention given to it by the government and the stakeholders, there are more and more works to be done in the sector. Ethiopia possesses all-rounded tourist destinations like religious (Christian and Muslim), cultural and natural attractions. The sector has created a huge amount of job opportunities for women and youths which the country facing, it becomes the good source of foreign currency for the national economy.
How do hotel investment and tourism go together?
It’s no doubt that hotel and tourism go together. Tourism is described as the movement of people from one part of the world to another; it can be locally or internationally. It means you leave your residence for some unspecific or specific days. So when you move out from your place you need the basic human needs like shelters, food and recreational activities which you missed at home and expected by your movement. So to fulfill this need the only place you need to have is hotel and related service providers. So if you want to move you need hotels. The other thing is people move from place to place to attend meeting and conferences; at this point the tourism destinations need to have facilities like hotels. Both hotel and tourism are inseparable.
Many argue that the hotel industry is saturated as the number of tourists visiting the country is on the decline. What’s your impression on this?
I don’t agree with this. As you know most of the hotels which are appropriate to tourists are found in Addis Ababa. When it comes to hotels around tourist destinations, it can be said that there are insufficient hotels. And also the number of expected tourists is not as it’s required; this may be due to different factors like the advertisement strategy being implemented, we need to bid and bring different MICE events which have a high number of participants. Even we should work to unleash the potential of the number of population we have by promoting the local tourism.
Do you believe that government’s policies and strategies are conducive for hotel and tourism sector?
I can say yes with some limitations. As you may be aware of the fact that the government considers this sector as a priority sector through the provision of incentives like duty-free privilege, tax holiday, land for hotel projects, promoting the country tourist destinations by high level of the leaders and the like. As a country we are still not capable of providing proper and quality hotel finishing materials and equipment.So this should be taken into consideration for hotel projects; we believe that some people abuse the privileges given by the government. We stand with government to avoid these issues.
What are the challenges the sector faces this time around?
There are so many challenges. The first one is the government and the leaders do not well understand the sector. The hotel and tourism sector has great potential in creating job opportunities and generating high foreign currency sources. The other challenge is the lack of getting foreign currency for purchasing finishing materials as well as the deteriorating peace and security in some parts of the country. Moreover, at the sectoral level we are not working together as a private sector. Our federation has been creating a platform to bring about change in the sector.
What about the prospects ahead?
We are working to solve those challenges and to use the opportunities. As you know we have organized the 1st National Hotel and Tourism Conference in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. This conference aimed to discuss the position of this sector by comparing with other countries and expected stage with the government and the partners. The conference was so successful. We raised different questions and recommendations to the government by considering the sectoral challenges and the government was represented by the Deputy Prime Minister, Ministers, Regional Presidents and City Mayors.
Tell us briefly about the upcoming the Hotel and Tourism conference to be held in Hawassa?
The pushing factor and plan to organize the hotel and tourism conference is the declining of the hotel and tourism activities in Ethiopia, which is mainly due to different unrest and lack of peace following the reform in the country. As well known lack of peace firstly affected the hotel and tourism sector. It aims to motivate and to witness that the cities are peaceful and comfortable for tourists by rotating the conference to Hawassa,Bahir Dar, Mekele and Oromiafollowing the Addis Ababa conference. On November 1-3, 2019, all-star hotel owners, tour operator’s owners, consultants, hotel operators, high-level government officials and the like will be in Hawassa to attend the conference and undertake different social activities. On this conference questions are expected to be forwarded to the government and responses will be given to participants; there will also be presentations on different issues; there will be an open discussion with high-level government officials. It will be the most memorable experience for the sector owners and partners. For this, the regional government and the city administration are working closely for the success of this conference.
What’s expected from the conference?
Many good things are expected from the Hawassa conference. Firstly, it activates the city hotel tourism activity that has been stagnant due to instability, and to show how peace and stability is restored in the city so that the city is ready for tourist and MICE activities. In the meantime hotel owners from all corners of the country will motivate hotel owners in Hawassa and share their experiences. It will create the socialization within the owners. We are following the official response from the specific Ministries.
What is your general assessment on the quality of manpower and technology used by hotels and tourism sector players?
No doubt it needs more and more improvement on these issues. We heard the surplus of educated and trained employees in the country. But when you come to reality there is a shortage of employees in the sector. When you see trained employees, they have no exposure to what they do. The training focuses on theoretical aspects; there is no practical training because of a shortage of infrastructures. In this regard hotel owners should cooperate with training institutions in providing practical training opportunities. In the near future the Addis Ababa City Mayor promising to give the land to the federation which will be used for a training center and for the Headquarter of the federation. The proposed training is to train east African’s.
Can you supply data on a current number of hotels, rooms, and beds in Ethiopia as a whole?
One of the challenges of the hotel sector is the lack of establishing reliable and well-designed records. Our federation is planning to get detail information of 1-5 star hotels in the country in 2012 E.C. and it will continue in other. So instead of giving unconfirmed data, it’s better to wait and release the exact one in the near future. We also planned the “One Page for One Hotel” printing project to promote hotels.
How do you describe the relations you have with concerned government organs?
Frankly speaking, there was no proper and good relation with the government until the national federation was established. All go here and there alone and the voice of the sector was not strong. After the federation was established the sector has begun to be well represented at the national level and work closely with the government and with partners. One of the witnesses for this is, organizing the 1st Hotel and Tourism Conference with the ministry. And also the hotel rating was conducted with us and we represent the owners in star-rating committees; we were involved in every activity of the government which was focusing on the hotel and tourism sector. In sum, we have established good communication with the governments.
Anything you want to add?
We would like to invite all owners in the sector to be a member of the federation and to be a strong voice. If we stand together we can make a change to the sector. We should be together for the development of the sector. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank the Ministry of Culture and Tourism especially to the Minister H.E Dr. HirutKassawand all staff for their unreserved support to stand with us for the sectoral development. I also would like to thank the committee of the conference. And also we thank you for giving a chance to express our ideas and wishes. Together we make the difference.