Ethiopia’s tourism sector is set for a record year as number of visitors to the coffee producing East African nation rise buoyed by increased number of high-end hotels built by Ethiopians in the Diaspora and improvements in transport infrastructure.
The country generated more than $1.7 billion in the first six months of its current fiscal year (2015/16), 2Merkato.com quoted the Ministry of Culture and Tourism saying.
The country received 470,000 tourists during the period, with each staying an average of 16 days and spending $234 each day. The visitors number was more than half of the average 750,000 visitors it gets each year — 12 percent higher than a decade ago.
According to Gezahegn Abate, Public Relations and International Affairs Director at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ethiopians living in abroad have built more than 200 luxury hotels in the country making it easier for the country to market itself as a upmarket tourist destination.
The Ethiopian government has for the past few years taken various steps to encourage Ethiopian Diaspora community to play an active role in the development of their home country, The Ethiopian Herald reported.
The country’s fertile national parks, 3,000 year-old archeological history and nine UNESCO world heritage sites are also a big attraction for tourists.
The Ethiopian government now wants to triple this number to more that 2.5 million each year by 2020, making tourism the leading sector in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, Reuters reported.
Tourism, which earned the country $2.9 billion in the 2014/15 fiscal year according to government data, contributes about 4.5 percent of the country’s GDP and generates about a million jobs according to the World Bank.
Ethiopia plans to boost revenue from the sector to over $3.5 billion in the current fiscal year, which will be bigger than its more tourist established neighbors Kenya and Tanzania.
Landlocked Ethiopia does not have any beaches to promote like the other two, but its cultural wealth like its 13th century underground churches of Lalibela, hewn from solid rock and the hill castles of Gondar are its big selling point.
It’s also grown more and more popular for travelers as it’s a safer and affordable destination.
The country has in recent years embarked on massive infrastructure spending that saw Africa’s first light train cutting though the sprawling city of Addis Ababa launched in September.
“What Ethiopia offers to tourists, different from Kenya and Tanzania, is history and culture,” Tony Hickey, an Irish tour operator who first arrived in Ethiopia in 1973, told the Daily Mail.
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