13 May 2012

Ethiopia: Lake Tana Transport Reels in U.S.$18.1 Million for New Boats

New boats are hoped to increase tourism income through easier access to island monasteries

After waiting for three years while negotiations between the governments of Ethiopia and the Netherlands were going on, Lake Tana Transport Enterprise (LTTE) is finally to get the 18.1 million dollars it needs to purchase four additional boats; an international tender will be floated in two weeks' time.

The Enterprise has been giving service to its customers using 12 boats, four of which were abandoned by Italian troops when the invasion was over and they left in 1936. The Italians had perforated the boats and sank them in the lake.

They were brought out in 1942, maintained, and became the first boats of the newly established Enterprise. For about 40 years, they were the only boats that the Enterprise had. Then it bought Yetana Nesh, and all of the others boats followed over the years.

The negotiations, which started in 2009 between the government of the Netherlands and the local Ministry of Transport, were concluded last month under the agreement that both parties would cover the cost equally.

"Our long-awaited dream has been realised," Fenta Beyene, general manager of the Enterprise who served for the last 10 years, told Fortune.

An international tender to purchase two passenger boats, capable of carrying 400 people each, and two cargo boats, with 800ql capacities, will be floated within two weeks, according to Fenta. The new boats will be modelled after Yetana Nesh. These new acquisitions will double the number of passengers that the Enterprise is currently capable of accommodating.

The 70 year-old Enterprise's major clients are tourists travelling to the monasteries on Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia, covering 2,156sqkm. Its cargo boats are mainly used to transport supplies to the islanders.

Currently, islanders use Yetana Nesh and traditional oar boats for their supplies. Fenta expects to see more tourists coming to Tana because of the boats to be added.

Tourist flows to Tana over the last two quarters of the current fiscal year have increased by 47.8pc to 62,165 visits, compared to the same period in 2010/11, according to Demirew Teferi, manager of the Bahir Dar City Administration's Culture & Tourism Bureau. The tourist revenue from these visitors was 5.2 million dollars, two per cent of the 253 million dollars of tourist revenue for the whole country over the same period.

The national revenue showed a 111pc growth from the previous year's two-quarter report. Neighbouring Kenya's two-quarter tourist revenue was 640 million dollars.

One of the problems inhibiting tourism in Ethiopia, according to a tourism lecturer at Hawassa University, is that most attractions are far from major cities. Investment in infrastructure, according to him, would increase the numbers of tourists.

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