Abyssinia Business Network /ABN/
Tourism Ethiopia Chief Executive Officer, Seleshi Girma has earned MBA in Int’l Business, MSc in Wildlife Conservation, and PGD in Tourism Management, and has got 14 years of experience in academics teaching, industry advising and government Leadership; he has also worked as tourism development advisor for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, for Addis Ababa City Tourism Bureau Deputy Head, lecturer at the University of Gondar, and consultant for international organizations working on tourism development.
How could you describe the existing condition of tourism in Ethiopia?
Ethiopia has many diverse natural and cultural tourist attractions. Unlike other nations in the continent, the country has competitive tourism resources having high potential to attract tourists. Most importantly it is the leading nation sheltering about 12 UNESCO recognized world heritage sites. Consequently, there has been a growing trend in the sector.
What are the main activities your organization is undertaking right now?
Basically, 4 major things to do as per the mandate given to the organization-
- Facilitating the tourist destination development,
- Capacity building of the sector
- Promote and market the tourism resources and build the Image of the country.
- Conduct researches on any issues of destination development & tourism promotions..
How far governments support the nation’s tourism sector?
Government is willing to support the sector by;
- Opening up of tourism studies in universities,
- Provides incentives to import duty free items such as vehicles for tour operators, construction materials for hotels and even restaurants.
- Enhance the private sector capacity to promote its business through sharing costs with the government, such as with my office.
- Though very weak, tried to ensure the conservation of heritage.
- It tries to play a role in securing tourist destinations for visitors.
Is tourism in Ethiopia different from other countries worldwide?
- The tourism in Ethiopia is highly focused on inbound tourism business. Aimed to receive foreign tourists and has ignored the business of sending out potential tourists from home to the outside world or at least to enhance the domestic tourism for citizens to move around our beautiful country.
- Most tourism businesses are owned by locals and it is worth to get more experiences to do tourism businesses and reduce economic leakage/money going outs/.
- Tourism is a new venture, much younger than agriculture & industry. So, requires more support & follow-up to be competitive.
Do you take up activities and projects under bilateral agreements with other stakeholders?
- We have ongoing projects with the World Bank and MasterCard foundation. This is more of designing national strategies to develop tourism.
- In the future, we are more interested in the private sector. Recently, we are mandated to raise funds, collect levy and intervene in public-private partnership/PPP/ projects.
“We strongly believe that tourism is equally growing in rural areas as it is in the cities. Agriculture is an input for tourism, and tourists love to experience the life in these areas.”
What are the major themes you pursue after signing partnerships with other players?
- We look for a common agenda and set a shared vision. It is following recommendations from past studies conducted by our organization or based on the tourism development policy objectives.
- Once we set a clear agenda, we make sure we have the right team comprised of different academic & experiences, key stakeholders…
- We ensure the possibility of monitoring and evaluating the role of each party is as per the MoU or any form of agreement terms.
What are the main types of tourism in Ethiopia?
There are many forms; I believe the major once are;
- Leisure tourism
- Conference tourism
- Adventure tourism
What are the creative strategies you have adopted?
We study trends and designed a strategy to focus on;
- To exploit the opportunity from being headquarter of OAU, we focus on MICE.
- Knowing tourists are more environment conservation sensitive, we focus on Ecotourism.
- Knowing have good recognition for Athletics & long-distance running, we focus on Sport tourism such as mountain bicycling, the moves of private sector by Haile Gebreselassie in running the Great Run are also a real creative works.
- Being a hub for 12 million passengers moving via Addis Ababa, we focus on Stop-over Tourism to let transits to spend few days in our tourist destinations.
- We are also developing a regional tour package as one East Africa region to be more visible in the global market competition.
How far tourism impacts Ethiopian cities and regions?
Mainly it has an economic impact. Understanding the economic values, cities and regions are involved in the conservation of their heritage, promotion of the natural and cultural resources, also it is a foundation for the launching and expansion of tourism and hospitality business.
Does tourism activity boost national economy benefiting citizens? How?
It benefits through its multiplier effect;
- Creating employment opportunity.
- To establish and run tourism business ventures.
- Helps citizens to feel proud of its culture and natural landscape being conserved, promoted and visited by tourists.
- Moreover, it brings Tax for the government and plays role in trade-balance.
What are the tourism plans that accompany expansion of economic projects of huge economic scale?
- To focus on MICE to bring and organize more conferences & exhibitions.
- To further enhance cultural tourism promotion to mainly scale up the competitive advantage of our country compared to the neighboring nations and maximize the benefits from the UNESCO recognized heritage.
What are the main areas of cooperation with economic sector to enable tourism projects in their activities?
From now on, we are keen to strongly work on PPP modality. This will happen in any of our future destination development and tourism promotion works.
How could tourism in the continent benefit citizen in general and youth in particular in operation and management of tourism activity?
Actually, tourism is labor-intensive and urges more creative employees. Hence, our youth can create new tourism businesses and contribute much to fill the gap of obtaining skilled manpower in the sector.
What is the rate of tourism revenues in Ethiopia?
According to the data obtained from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, it brings more than one billion dollar annually.
What are the most significant areas of investment in domestic tourism?
Indeed, domestic tourism is yet untapped. Howsoever, I suggest the following areas of investment:
- Opening up of specialist tour operators (Niche operators) focuses on designing and selling tour packages targeting local people.
- Specialized restaurants offering foreign cuisine that meets demands of visitors of different nationalities/.
- Establish youth hostels to offer reasonable prices for student travelers /meet the demands of educational tours & foreign back-packers/.
- I personally also believe that opening of tourism and hospitality academy is also essential.
What are the most encouraging potentials for business capital to invest in tourism?
The continuous growth of the sector, the incentive packages for the industry operators and the willingness of the government to support the sector (if changed in to commitments) are the key promising facts that give courage.
Are there any administrative regulations to arrange and control work performance in Travel and Tourism Agencies?
The major mechanisms are:
- Licensing tourism businesses
- Standardization and labeling of services. E.g. hotels using stars.
- Regular supervision and monitoring of each business.
What about promoting and developing eco-tourism or rural (agricultural) tourism?
We strongly believe that tourism is equally growing in rural areas as it is in the cities. Agriculture is an input for tourism, and tourists love to experience the life in these areas. Most importantly, we focus on ecotourism, which happens to be developed in nature areas, be it a mountain or desert. Thereby, we get chance to encourage eco-lodges, eco-camping ventures and any eco-friendly businesses in general.