Endegena Desalegn, Acting Communication Director with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT) has elucidated the overall activities that have been put in to practice to stimulate the tourism sector. Of all the major economic sectors, tourism is one of the sectors massively hit by spread of Coronavirus in Ethiopia and across the world as well.
Noting that Hotels, Tour operators and Transport service providers have been the worst affected by the pandemic, he mentioned that the government has been taking necessary measures to minimize the impact of coronavirus.
MoCT, Tourism Ethiopia as well as other Hotels and Travel Operators' Associations have been putting efforts to minimize the impact of the pandemic and lessen the burden being put on highly affected areas.
In addition to this, preparation has also been made to help Hotels resist the impact of the pandemic and start their business in no time keeping the necessary precautions. To this effect, recovery strategies have been devised to reopen the tourism sector.
Drafting and preparing long and short term strategic plan in order to get the sector recovered from the pandemic was among the activities undertaken so far. While the short term strategy covers the way to promote Ethiopia's tourist destination online using internet during the state of emergency was existed, the term was more stressed on how this smokeless industry will be motivated during the post-corona period.
Accordingly, the government has made massive works in order to support the sector. As an illustration, the government gave sigh period for paying their tax. Accordingly, the government has cancelled their tax debit and penalties before 2014 while it made 10 percent tax discount from the year 2014 up to 2018.
Similarly, the government has provided tourism actors with opportunities that help them access credit from banks with small interest rate, despite some limitations on performance. The government has provided 3.3 billion Birr credit for Hotel and Tour Operators Association during the last six months. And the associations requested to get 6.6 billion Birr within a year, he noted.
Moreover, the Ministry in collaboration with different volunteer associations and individuals has donated tourism actors that were under economic pressure during the pandemic. Accordingly, it has supplied with clothes, food stuffs and other materials, he said.
As to him, MoCT is also undertaking preliminary works to open the sector for foreign visitors following the Government of Ethiopia has lifted the state of emergency since early September. Setting up guidelines and tourism protocol is among the activities undertaking by the Ministry. This guiding protocol helps regulate the activities of the tourist and tour guide when visiting hotels and tourist destinations.
Apart from this, the ministry has discussed a range of ideas with tour guides and hotel owners in order to create awareness about the preventive mechanisms of COVID-19. According to him, proper face mask usage, applying social distancing and proper usage of hotel materials are among the issues raised during the discussion.
Tourist destination areas are also being prepared for tourists. Disinfecting tourist destinations and sanitizing materials have been carried out and tour operators and staff members are also provided with relevant trainings along that line.
Furthermore, constructing and supplementing infrastructures around tourist destinations have been carried out in collaboration with regional administrations. However, it is difficult to fulfill every destination's infrastructure at once. Therefore, we are working to reopen the sector through completing the rest activities via creating suitable environment for the tourists in line with applying and adopting the standards to protect the pandemic, he noted.
Apart from the former tourist destination, the new destinations like; Entoto Park, Addis Ababa River Side Project and Unity Park are also ready to be visited by tourists. Tour guides are highly responsible for the country's image building through applying the standards as tourists make their long journey with them, he pointed. And the government will also make continuous support and follow up to properly implement the new tourism protocol and standards, he noted.