By Andualem Sisay Gessesse – Djibouti-Following the commencement of the newly built Ethiopia – Djibouti railway transport and the growing number of middle class in Ethiopia, Djibouti says it is targeting to boost the number of Ethiopian tourists and co-market the two nations as single destination.
“We have seen steady increase of tourists from Ethiopia over the past two years. But that is not enough. We are working to increase the number of tourists from Ethiopia. We will open our office in Addis Ababa next month to provide information about the tourist attractions of Djibouti to Ethiopians, “says Osman Abdi Mohamed, CEO of National Tourism Office of Djibouti.
Since the railway between the two countries has started operations, it makes easy and affordable for Ethiopians to spend their holidays with families enjoying the Red Sea coasts in Djibouti, according to Yousouf Mousa Dawaleh, President of Djibouti Chamber of Commerce.
Ethiopia and Djibouti are connected via road, railway and electricity. Ethiopia has also been providing water to Djibouti over the past few years. Further binding together, the two countries have also signed an agreement in 2016, which will enable Djiboutians to be treated like Ethiopians and vice versa, according to Mr. Yousouf.
Djibouti Port has also been handling over 80% of Ethiopian international trade for the past two decades. Meanwhile Assab and Massawa ports of Eritrea are expected to take some of Ethiopia’s import and export goods from Djibouti Port, following the recent restoration of peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
“We have a lot of interdependence. We expect more Ethiopian businesses to invest in Djibouti,” he said, indicating that many Djiboutians are also engaged in multiple businesses in Ethiopia, ranging from real estate development to logistics businesses.
One of the challenges to boost the number of Ethiopians visiting Djibouti for leisure would be the shortage of the hard currency Ethiopia is currently facing. Reports show that discussions are underway between the officials of the two countries about the possibility of Ethiopians using their own currency while in Djibouti.
Though not officially promoted by the government, it is not a problem to find older women on the streets of Djibouti, who convert Ethiopian birr to Djibouti Frank. Meanwhile officially, it is forbidden to take out of the country more than 4,000 birr [Ethiopian currency] to Djibouti. T
he maximum amount one can hold coming into Ethiopia or leaving Ethiopia to other countries except Djibouti, is 1,000 birr, according to the directive of the National Bank of Ethiopia.
Recently Djibouti has introduced online visa for all citizens of the world. The country has also made available visa on arrival for many countries, according to Mr. Osman.
Destination Ethiopia – Djibouti
Ethiopia and Djibouti are also working to market their two countries as single tourist destination. Last year tour operators from Ethiopia have met their counter parts in Djibouti to discuss on how to do joint market the country’s tourist attraction in a package. The next meeting is expected in the coming months in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, according to Mr. Osman.
“Ethiopia has many historical tourist attractions registered by UNSCO. But Djibouti has what Ethiopia does not have, such as seaside beaches. Tourists who go to Ethiopia can go to Djibouti to visit such areas. Likewise, tourists who come to Djibouti can also go to Ethiopia to see what is not available in Djibouti if we prepare one package tour,” he said.
Djibouti is in top the tourist destinations in 2018, according to Mr. Osman. He stated that in 2017, 140,000 tourists have visited Djibouti and tourism contributed to 3% of the gross domestic products (GDP) of the country.
The government is now planning to boost this share to 5% in the coming years as speculated in the national tourism master plan of the country expected to be approved by the government soon. After five years, the government plans to increase the number of tourists arriving to the country to half a million, according to Mr. Osman, who briefed visiting international journalists from Ethiopia in his office this afternoon.
In addition to Ethiopian tourists, Djibouti is also planning to boost the number of tourists from China, Middle East countries as well as Spanish speaking countries.
Currently the majority of tourist are coming to Djibouti is from French speaking countries. To diversify its source of tourists, the government is planning to provide assistance to tour operators to train their staff in multiple languages, which includes Amharic, Chinese, Spanish and English.
French, Arabic and to some extent English, are among the most spoken language in the tiny in Eastern Africa country, which has a total population of around a million, dominantly the Somali and Afar communities, who are also found in the neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea.