10 January 2018

Ethiopia: Enhancing Conference Tourism

According to a recent study conducted by Dawit Tesfaye under a title 'Analysis of the Development of Convention Tourism in Addis Ababa,' conference tourism sector has been growing dramatically to become a dominant player in an economy.

Though there is no well documented evidence when conference tourism began in Ethiopia, history shows that it has got popularity after the construction of the African Union Hall and the United Nations Conference Centers in the capital.

The government of Ethiopian has been paying a considerable attention to the sector due to its considerable economic benefit because of the fact that leaders and other conference participants are increasingly seeking Addis Ababa as convention destination now than ever.

Moreover, different authorities including the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have witnessed the immense potential of the tourism industry at large and convention tourism sub-sector in particular in Ethiopia.

As Dawit stated in his study, the current tourism strategy of the country is designed in a way that it gives focus to the development of aggregate tourism industry at large. And it is necessary to consider convention tourism as a niche market and the product positioned in the minds of its targeted customers.

According to UNWTO's 2012 report, tourism in general has experienced continued expansion and diversification over the last six decades, becoming one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors in the world. It has also highlighted the long-term outlook and assessment of future tourism trends. And it predicted that the number of international tourist flow worldwide is expected to increase by 3.3 percent a year on average from 2010 to 2030.

Business tourism, one component of conference tourism, constitutes conference or convention and events. Even if business tourism is one of the giant tourism branches, it is an umbrella for those related tourism sub-sectors. The 21st century is the age of globalization whereby collaboration and cooperation is given much attention.

And Ethiopia follows a policy which promotes the interconnection and collaboration of countries in its region and beyond. Moreover, the nation is witnessing active participation with other nations through creating coalition with different international and regional blocks particularly in the areas of economic integration.

The researcher, who is also General Manager of Bellevue Hotel and SPA in Addis Ababa, told The Ethiopian Herald that conference tourism is growing faster than ever in various states in the nation in general and in Addis Ababa in particular. Referring his research findings, he further stated that Addis Ababa needs many more improvements in terms of quality of hotels and hospitality service to sufficiently accommodate the current and future demands of the sector to the level expected.

As to Dawit the sector still lacks appropriate product development process that can make the convention business flow freely leaving a lasting impression in the minds of convention participants. He further stated "Conference tourism should consider the combination of two basic components, entertainment and business."

The hospitality sector needs to create conducive environment to attract more participants. Conference tourism participants always consider safety and security, conference related costs, location and convenient venue as their criteria to select their destination. At the same time, there are some attributes that are necessary for them to selecting their venues, Dawit stressed.

Dawit Further indicated that development of the convention product, employing better technologies, further work on infrastructural development, focusing on standards or qualities related to the convention tourism, development of controlling unit and bench marking best practices of successful destinations are very crucial elements that needs to be conducted in advancing world class conference tourism centers in Ethiopia.

The hospitality sector should be given attention in many aspects. One of these is the work that shall be done in the areas of capacity building and human resource development stream to the sub-sector, he said.

"The hospitality sector has shown growth both in quantity and quality over the last few years but as a tourist destination Addis Ababa still needs many more hotels, spas and guesthouses that the participants of conference tourism enjoy and spend much time in and around."

Detlef Mortiz, Germany, visited many of the tourist destinations in Ethiopia. As he said that the hospitality sector is showing progress in Ethiopia. But much still needs to be done to prolong tourists' stay in one place by developing various products and services so as to collect much revenue out of their stay.

He further stated that there are many tourist destinations in Ethiopia that can wholly captivate tourists. And this should be supported with other complementary entertainment and business tourism components. He further highlighted "such conference tourism centers should be developed more in diplomatic hubs like Addis. "

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