Tourism which is known as the smokeless industry has huge contribution to the economy of countries. It is an industry that could create jobs, generate foreign exchange and hugely supports the economy. According to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) 2016 report, tourism has contributed USD 7.6 trillion (10.2 percent) of the world's GDP and created job opportunity for 292 million people, which accounts to 1 in 10 jobs created in the planet. European countries such as France, Spain, Italy and United Kingdom have been listed as top tourist destination nations in 2016.
When we come to our country, Ethiopia has rich cultural, historical, religious and natural tourist attractions. More importantly, it is the center of ancient civilization, the origin of humankind and it is the home of more than 80 diversified nations, nationalities and peoples. There are various religions, languages, cultures, customs and way of life in Ethiopia. Generally speaking, Ethiopia is one of the very mosaic nations in the world that every tourist would dream to visit its attractions once in his/her lifetime.
Ethiopia has more than 3,000 years of proud history. The Aksumite civilization which was one of the four ancient civilizations ever occurred on this planet included historical, religious and cultural heritages. There are obelisks, tombs, palaces, churches, stone inscriptions and coins in Axum. It is also the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. According to archaeologists, 80 percent of Axum is not yet unearthed and the invaluable antiquities were not unveiled to the rest of the world.
The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela which are found in Amhara state are other marvelous historical heritages in Ethiopia. They are crafted from rock using very mysterious and amazing architectural style of that time. The churches are believed to be built during the Zagwe dynasty in the seventh to thirteenth centuries. UNESCO has recognized the 11 monolithic cave churches as world heritages. As international heritages, they attract huge number of tourists from around the world every year. Besides, the Gonder palace, the temple of Yeha, HararJugol, Danakil depression, Gheralta mountains, Lake Tana and its monasteries, Sof Omar cave, Tiya standing stones, Semien National Park, Omo National Park, Addis Ababa natural and manmade heritages and others are among the top tourist sites of the country. Moreover, intangible heritages such the Mesqel, Eid-Alfitr, Timket, Fiche Chambalalaand Irreecha are attracting tourists every year from various corners of the world.
Even though Ethiopia has untapped tourism potential, amazing hospitality and sustainable peace and stability, it has not been utilizing the sector to support its economy. The main factors which hinder the sector include lack of infrastructure such as roads and airports, brand hotels, lodges and qualified human power. Even if the nation is striving to modernize its infrastructure, many tasks remain to be accomplished especially in the tourist destination areas.
But there are encouraging accomplishments in improving the sector. Regarding infrastructure, the nation has been working to construct brand hotels, accommodations, roads and airports in various tourist destination areas of the country. According to the Government Communication Office, 1,200 Km concrete road was paved in tourist areas and similar projects are underway.
Tourist Service Competency Accreditation Senior Expert at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, FasilEndale told The Ethiopian Herald that three and above star hotels would be built in tourist destinations to increase tourist arrivals and to extend their stays.
"Foreign tourists were not happy to elongate their 3.5 days average stay over the last couple of decades. The main challenge was lack of modern infrastructure and accommodation. Having understood this problem, the government and private developers are building brand hotels in major tourist destination areas." According to him, the tourist flow is increasing from time to time and this shows the government's commitment to transform.
Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Trade Sectoral Association (AHA) Chairperson BenyamBisrat for his part stressed that renovating and conserving of heritages and developing tourism potentials endeavors would have massive contribution in transforming the sector to higher level.
"Beyond constructing hotels and accommodations, we give due focus tourist destination development. There are many tourism heritages which are being in danger. Thus, we should have to preserve them in collaboration with stakeholders," he said.
The government has established the Ethiopian Tourism Organization (ETO) in 2014 aimed at transforming the sector. In addition to this, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, State Culture and Tourism Offices and other stakeholders have immense role in enhancing the untapped tourism resources of the nation. They should unveil the hidden mysteries to the outside world. Upon fulfilling the efforts of these organizations into fruition, Ethiopia could realize the vision of becoming among the top five tourist destinations in Africa by 2025.