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Ethiopia’s new tourism strategy to attract 1 million Chinese tourists in five years

By Aweke Getahun Abate (People's Daily Online)    13:27, August 23, 2019

For countries like Ethiopia, tourism has the potential to bring major socio-economic progress, poverty reduction, and establish sustainable development.

With its diverse natural, cultural and historical tourist attractions, Ethiopia has the capacity to become one of the leading tourist destinations in Africa, and indeed the world. The country, recognized as the cradle of mankind, has the highest number of UNESCO heritage sites in any African country. Ethiopia is also known as the origin of coffee. It is famed for the rock-hewn Lalibela churches, ancient Mosques, highlands and national parks, Aksum obelisks, Blue Nile trace, Semein mountain, as well as Gondar palace.

Regardless of the diversified tourism potentials, the number of tourists flowing to Ethiopia has not been proportionate. Nevertheless, with the appropriate strategies, Ethiopia can be modernized and transformed into a preferred destination for major outbound tourist markets such as China.

So far, the number of Chinese tourists to Ethiopia has been minimal, though there is a growing trend of Chinese tourist’s to the country.

Recently in a bid to change this, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia in Beijing and Ethiopian Airlines Regional Office jointly launched the Ethiopian Tourism Destinations Marketing Strategy for China. To implement the strategy, a council consisting of 21 members was formed. This council consists of officials from the Ethiopian Embassy in China, three consulate offices in China, Ethiopian Airlines, experts, Ethiopian citizens and students studying in different universities in China.

Referring to the strategy, Ethiopian Ambassador to China Teshome Toga said, the goal is to bring new synergy and a paradigm shift in the Ethiopian destinations marketing approach towards China’s outbound tourism market and significantly transform the flow of Chinese tourists to Ethiopia. The targeted and coordinated approach is being formulated based on Ethiopia’s competitive tourism advantages and ultimately aims to cultivate a renewed image of “The land of Origins” to become a destination of choice.

The five-year strategy (2019-2025) includes plans and policies to improve Ethiopia’s tourism landscape by developing infrastructure, expanding airports, providing better tourism service facilities, and increasing air connectivity between China and Ethiopia. Under the strategy, the Ethiopian Government will also work to increase Chinese investments and create incentives for entrepreneurs, so that more tourism service facilities and supplementary services are introduced in Ethiopia for Chinese tourists. Furthermore, Ethiopian tourism sector stakeholders will participate in more tourism promotion activities, advertise and market in travel media and work with tour operators and travel agencies to urge them to sell Ethiopian travel packages to Chinese tourists.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ethiopia recorded $190 million in revenue from 50,626 Chinese tourists that visited the country in 2018. Tourist arrivals from China to Ethiopia in 2018 attributed an increase of 11.7 percent compared to the total arrival of 45,307 in 2017. The target of the new strategy is to increase tourists coming in from China to Ethiopia to 1 million tourists, while increasing tourism revenue from Chinese tourists from $190 million to $4 billion within five years. It also aims to increase the number of tour operators incorporating Ethiopian tourism destinations in their packages to 300 in five years.

Speaking about the council established to implement the strategy, Negus Kebede, Minister Councilor in charge of foreign trade and tourism promotion in the Ethiopian Embassy in Beijing, said synergy and teamwork is very important at the epicenter of marketing and branding a nation and also promoting tourism.

“We strongly believe that we will be promoting Ethiopia’s unique land of origins, to grow the tourism destination awareness in china, penetrate the Chinese tourism market, and create also a broader customer reality for Ethiopian airlines,” Kebede said.

Meanwhile, Yared Berta, Regional director for Ethiopian Airlines in China and Mongolia, cited that Ethiopian Airlines has a major advantage as the biggest airline that connects Africa to China.

“Ethiopian diplomatic missions and Ethiopian Airlines established this tourism council to integrate and combine our resources and our knowledge to promote the country in a very aggressive way,” Berta said.

Ethiopia currently has an embassy in Beijing and consulate offices in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing, while Ethiopian Airlines currently operates to five Chinese Cities, namely Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Hong Kong.

Ethiopia is already one of the African countries which has been granted an “Approved Destination status” for Chinese tourists. This is aligned with elements of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in which Africa and China have committed themselves to facilitate travels by their nationals between China and Africa.

According to the world tourism organization (UNWTO), in 2017 China was ranked as the leading world tourism spender. With rapid growth of the number of China’s outbound tourists (158 million trips, 2018), the total overseas consumption of Chinese tourists has also hit record high, reaching $258 billion. UNWTO forecasts that there will be about 200 million Chinese outbound tourists in 2020.

By now, China is the third largest source of tourists visiting Ethiopia, after the United States and Britain. It is believed that China’s continual implementation of the “opening -up” policy, the historical diplomatic and strategic partnerships between the two countries and people to people relations will pave the way for Chinese tourism stakeholders to understand Ethiopia and its tourism potential. 

The author is a journalist with Ethiopia News Agency and is currently participating in the China Asia Pacific Press Center 2019 program in Beijing.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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