By Fitsum Abera
Last week on March 22, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who also chairs the Ethiopian Tourism Transformation Council, officially introduced the Amharic version of Ethiopia’s new tourism logo ‘Ethiopia, Land of Origins’. It is now called Midre Kedemt in Amharic.
The Prime Minister unveiled the Amharic version of the new logo while attending the fourth regular meeting of the Council, which was established three years ago in March 2014 along with the Ethiopian Tourism Organization. Reason? To transform the country’s ailing tourism industry.
A sign of urgency to reboot the country’s tourism industry plagued by, among others, poor tourism infrastructure and absence of meaningful coordination, both the Council and the Organization were established following a regulation issued by the Council of Ministers (CoM) in August 2013.
The ups and downs
Tourism in Ethiopia has been witnessing an increasing- if modest- growth since the country officially opened its doors to foreign tourists in 1963. According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MOCT), the most significant dip in the number of foreigners visiting Ethiopia happened during the 17 years in power of the military Derg regime from 1974 to 1991. Since then, following the coming into power of the incumbent in 1991, the numbers have shown a steady growth from 64,000 to 750,000 during the 2014/15 fiscal year.
That was until November 2015, when anti-government protests that would grip the country throughout 2016 first started, an unexpected turn of an event both the Council and the Organization seemed not prepared to handle.
“That [the time the protests began] was when we started to notice the difference,” says a tour operator who requested anonymity. “More and more clients began asking questions about security as the [protests] got international press coverage. Pretty soon the low season was upon us and the number of tourists plummeted as we [feared]. But we didn’t expect that more than 95% of our bookings for the high season would end up being canceled.”
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