Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: First Tour, Travel Fair Far behind Those of Other Countries

The first balloon flight that was introduced by Abyssinia Ballooning Plc was one of the only demonstrations observed in the afternoon of Thursday while shown to Tadelech Dolecho (enface), minister of MoCT.

Barm Van Loobbrock (far behind), a Dutch citizen and owner of 50pc joint venture of the company with Ahadu Beze, owner and general manager of the company, a Diaspora who moved to Ethiopia a year ago.

Sanjay Sharma, 32, is an Indian businessman who came running to visit the Tourism & Travel Fair organised for the first time in the country.

The Fair was organised alongside the Fifth Agrifex Ethiopia, where agricultural products and machinery are annually displayed. The two events, organised by the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Associations (AACCSA), are going on side-by-side from June 14 to 18, 2012.

Tour operators were displaying pictures and their profiles at the corners of their stands.

However, Sharma was a little bit disappointed in seeing the 43 local and international tour operators. Gashaw Debebe, secretary general of the Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Association (AACCSA), described the 167 registered operators to Fortune.

Sanjay recalls the tour and travel exhibition that he attended seven months ago in the semi-desert of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, one of the largest states of India, as it is described as a hotspot for culture.

"I was fascinated by the organisation of the exhibition," he said. "There were visitors from all over the world, and I was expecting to see the same thing here."

One such programme was the demonstration of a married couple. In a setting that was prepared only for showing how the marriage ceremony is celebrated in India. There were horses, a music band, and dancers to encourage visitors to dance.

"They would take couples and made them ride the horse as they approached the crowd, then the crowd welcomed them dancing, making them feel like they were the married couple, for real," he recalls the moment that he danced in one of the weddings with a big smile.

The other way that the organisers presented the tourist attractions of their country was displaying pictures, playing videos of the sites and of tourists visiting the places with a big screen, and scenes depicting the cultures and ways of life in the states.

There are over 27 tour and travel exhibitions in India organised throughout the year. The number of foreign tourist arrivals in the year 2011 was 2.92 million, according to a report by the Indian Ministry of Tourism.

As the tourism industry's popularity grows, the image of travel and tourism has begun to evolve in Ethiopia, in the past couple of years, agreed the exhibitors.

It took a year to organise the tour and travel event, according to Gashaw.

"As it is the first time, we are very much satisfied with the performance and responses we got from the stakeholders and the people," he said.

Ethiopia earned 253 million dollars in the first two quarters of the 2011/12 fiscal year from tourism, which is 111pc higher than that of the same period last year. During the same period the number of tourists grew by 11pc to 321,000 tourists, according to Ministry of Culture & Tourism (MoCT).

The event was successful in creating contacts between the local tour operators and foreign visitors, according to Gashaw.

One of the exhibitors that showcased their new machine is seen explaining about it to Gashaw Debebe (next to him), secretary general of AACCSA; Tefera Derebew (centre), minister of MoA and Ayalew Zegeye, president of the ACSSA in the opening day of the exhibition on Thursday, June 14, 2012.

Ethiopia was ranked 122nd out of 139 countries in the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Competiveness Index 2011.

"The main reason for Ethiopia's low performance is poor quality packaging of tourist products, inadequate infrastructure, and other critical laws governing the performance of stakeholders," Ayalew Zegeye, president of the AACCSA.

There are 167 tour operators registered under the Tour Operators Association, while there are a little more than 200 hotels available for tourists in the country. The new event was organised with the theme "Tourism for Economic Development" aiming at promoting inbound, outbound, and domestic tourism.

Tadelech Dolecho, the minister for Culture & Tourism, asked all operators if they had packages for domestic visitors. Many responded positively, but she was more impressed by Kadanuumuu Tour & Travel, established a year ago with a capital of 500,000 Br. Kadanuumuu, which is what the Afars call the skeletal Lucy, told Tadelech that they take fifth grade students and their parents to visit farms in the Lower Awash every Saturday, according to Maedot Assefa, tour operations manager.

Kadanuumuu charges 280 Br for a trip that consists of 40 students that is the common number of child tourists every weekend, which earns them 11,200 Br from one trip.

Other participants in the event included Travel Ethiopia, Adika Tour & Travel Plc, and Smiling Ethiopia Travel & Tours Plc. While there were also organisations like National Theatre, the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, and the Authority for Research & Conservative of Cultural Heritage, which are under the MoCT.

Likewise, on the same day, the Fifth Agrifex Ethiopia, organised with the theme "Agricultural Development for Food and Self-Reliance," had 67 exhibitors. With most of the participants showcasing the same products as last year, there were also foreign companies presenting food and spices.

One of the stands that was attention-grabbing for many visitors at the opening was MELCA-Ethiopia, which works with local communities, schools, and youths. Established a year ago with the aim of saving the indigenous, local seeds, MELCA-Ethiopia displayed various types of artwork done by nine schools, out of a total of 49 schools.

The largest stand was taken by the MoCT, which was 63sqm, inside the second pavilion where exhibitors were required pay 110 Br a day. The rate was only 60 Br for outside stands per square metre.

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