East Africa: Airports Transforming Tourism Sector

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Ethiopia seems awake to look in to its tourism potential. Along with the development of various tourist infrastructural facilities, the country is endeavoring to market the resource for economic development. The government is also taking bold measures to transform the sector. The establishment of the National Tourism Council led by Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn is a manifestation to the government’s political commitment to develop the sector.

Cognizant of sector contribution to national development, the government availed a new national tourism brand " Land of Origins " to tell the world Ethiopia is home to many Origins. The role and contribution of airports is vital to realize the aspirations in the sector.

The Ethiopian Airports Enterprise (EAE) said that the expansion of airports in the country is in consideration of tourist destinations thereby providing quality services to tourists.

Enterprise Public Relations Officer Wendim Teklu told The Ethiopian Herald that besides increasing the number of airports nationwide, the enterprise is providing quality airport services in collaboration with stakeholders.

Accordingly, he said, the enterprise is working closely with Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Tourism Organization and travel agents to offer preferable booking, luggage porter, transport and restaurant services, among others.

It has already begun the construction of new airports , upgrading, expansion in tourist destination areas of the country. The upgrading works include Jinka, Hawassa, Robe, Semera, Nekemt, Shire Endaselassie, Dembi Dolo and Kebri Dehar airports.

He added that these airports are designed taking in to consideration the cultural identity of the destinations citing Jinka and Semera airports for depicting Hamer dance and Afari people housing style.

Moreover, Wendim said the expansion of Bole International Airport will ease the load of passengers and tourists at entry and exit time. The expansion of airports would enable the country to offer efficient services to the ever increasing tourists.

According to him, the enterprise installed modern baggage handling system, suitable reception and VIP rooms for tourists.

According to Ethiopian website, the national carrier’s domestic route network is spread all over the country. In addition, there is a daily_“Historic Route Service”_for tourists to the country’s world famous ancient historic sites of Axum, Bahir Dar, Gondar and Lalibela which showcase obelisks and rock-hewn churches that are the main attractions of the Northern travel sites.

Special tour programs are also designed to allow visitors to choose the activities and locations that interest them most, ensuring that everyone makes the most of the time they spend there.

And for trekking enthusiasts, the Simien escarpments which are often compared to the Grand Canyon in the United States of America and named by UNESCO as a world heritage site is ideal.

It said to the east, Dire Dawa and Harar offer a blend of natural beauty and history. The Afro-alpine habitat of the south provides unlimited opportunities for mountain walks, horse trekking, scenic drives and bird watching.

Ethiopian provides domestic scheduled service to more than 20 towns in different directions of the country.

Culture and Tourism Ministry Public and International Relations Expert Tariku Negash also said that Ethiopia is benefiting a lot from the tourism sector that contributes four per cent to the GDP. Indicating that sector income has been increasing from time to time, he said the Ministry earned over 3.4 million Birr from 910, 128 tourists last fiscal year.

He said the Ministry is closely working with tourism service providers including EAE , ETO, Ethiopian and travel agents, among others. The expansion of airports is supporting the sector more in encouraging tourists to easily travel to all parts of the country.

According to him, tourists seek safety and security the air transport is thus more reliable mode of transport.

Presently, Ethiopia is working for the development of the sector fulfilling the necessary infrastructure, conservation of heritages and marketing activities, among others, to lure tourists thereby becoming one of the top five tourist destinations of the continent by 2022.

He added that owing to the enabling environment the private sector and others engaged in the sector are contributing to sector development.

Ethiopian Tourism Organization Public Relations Officer Getnet Yigzaw said that his organization is working closely with EAE to make tourists’ stay enjoyable. The organization is also providing training to stakeholders in tourism destination development and marketing.

According to Getnet, the organization has taken part in 13 international cultural exhibitions to promote nation’s culture and other tourism attractions to the rest of the world.

He said that it is also closely working with the media and travel agents so as to promote tourist destinations. The country has prepared a new tourism brand " Land of Origins" for marketing the distinctive man-made and natural attractions.

Getnet also disclosed that a new tourism master plan has been prepared to manage proZenawitblems related to renovation, promotion and infrastructural development activities. It is also believed to enhance advanced tourism marketing to increase tourist inflow and generate considerable revenue, he added.