Weekend Reading – BY ANDUALEM SISAY GESSESSE – Thanks to the Ethiopian Airlines, which is Africa’s largest aviation group in Africa, Ethiopia attracts several hundreds of thousands of people every year. Though some of these international travelers pass through the capital Addis Ababa as transit passengers, significant number of them come as business travelers and to visit the unique tourist destinations of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has dozens tourist sites including world heritages, archeological, and cultural attractions though these resources are not yet generating enough revenue for the country. Compared to its huge tourism potential, Ethiopia is not earning enough.
The biggest amount of revenue the tourism sector of Ethiopia has generated is about $3.55 billion in a year from some 812,000 visitors before the COVID-19 outbreak in 2019. Of course compared to neighboring Kenya, which generated about 1.5 billion from the sector during the same year, Ethiopia’s performance is encouraging.
But I believe boosting the current revenue of Ethiopia from the sector by five-fold or even ten-fold won’t take much complicated measures.
It only takes thinking outside the box. Some of the tricks are not new. They are being exercised in other parts of the world.
I think by implementing a few of the following secrets, Ethiopia can at least triple the current revenue from its untapped tourism attractions.
Social Media Influencers
Ethiopia can increase boost its current tourism revenue by increasing the number of visitors. A country can increase the number of international travelers by promoting its tourist destinations to the global and domestic audiences.
But such promotion needs to be creative and not business as usual. In this social media age a country doesn’t need to invest millions of dollars for advertising on an international TV channel such as, CNN to attract international tourists.
Ethiopia and any country can easily advertise its tourism sites by working with individuals who run groups with millions of followers on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and other social media platforms.
Official statistics shows that Instagram currently has more than one billion monthly active users. It ranks third after Facebook (with just over two billion active users) and YouTube (with 1.9 billion).
On Instagram there are influencers with over 200 million followers almost double the size of the population of Ethiopia. That means each and every Instagram post of these icons will be seen by their millions of visitors.
The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines and the Minister of Tourism of Ethiopia can co-sign an all expenses covered invitation to a few of these Instagram / Facebook, and YouTube influencers to spend a few days or a week and visit the UNESCO registered unique world heritages found in Ethiopia.
The cost is insignificant for Ethiopian Airlines if its provides a free round trip business class for some of these celebrities.
Likewise, it will not be expensive for the Ministry of Tourism and its partners to cover all the domestic travels and hotel expenses of these celebrities.
Rest assure that they will at least post a line with a few pictures to their millions of followers.
I think this is one of the most effective promotion techniques of the 21st century that can result in increasing the number of international tourists coming to Ethiopia in the long run.
One may think that some of these global icons and influencers may worry about the security in Ethiopia and be reluctant to accept the invitation.
But the Minister of Tourism can assure that a special 24/7 VIP security during their stay in Ethiopia will be provided. And let’s not forget that Ethiopia and its capital, Addis Ababa is among the safest places where heads of states from 55 African countries assemble every year.
2- Specialized cultural festivals
Ethiopia has about 80 ethnic groups and tribes with unique cultural and social events at least once in a year. Most of these tribes are known for their healthy unique and organic foods. While others celebrate their own unique new year festivity.
The Ministry of tourism can easily collaborate with each tribe or region of Ethiopia and organize a special even at any corner of Ethiopia such as, Cultural Week of Sidama / Gamo / Borena / Argoba / Harari/ Konso / Dawro / Shekicho / etc…
In addition of course, coffee testing day at coffee farm can also be organized in different parts of Ethiopia, the birth place of coffee, which are growing the finest coffee varieties in the world.
— Ethiopia Tourism (@ethio_tourism) August 17, 2018
During these tourist targeted events visitors international tourists, and Ethiopians from the diaspora, as well as those in Ethiopia can enjoy the cultural foods, drinks, music, and secured tour of open market, mountain hiking, fishing, and the area with professional guides who brief about the history of the people, culture, investment attractions of each area, etc..
That means in Ethiopia there are tourist targeted well organized packages for tourists at any week of the year. In fact, there could be different events of such nature in different parts of Ethiopia within the same week.
The Ministry of Tourism and the regions of Ethiopia and zones can plan such events properly and share the calendar of these events on social media platforms.
So, that people within Ethiopia or international travelers and tour guide companies will be aware of these events. Such festival schedules will enable people to plan their leisure time in advance.
In addition, it will also enable some of the less developed areas to attract investment in hospitality such as, building lodges, hotels, etc.
These special weekly events can definitely attract many people from around the world, the Ethiopians in the diaspora, and encourage local people from cities such as Addis Ababa to attend with their families.
At the end of the day, there is no doubt that such events will definitely result in increase of the current earnings of Ethiopia from tourism sector. Of course, this is in addition to the trickle-down effects as the dormant rural areas of Ethiopia will be active as a result of such specialized cultural events.
The events also create additional income for the people in these areas be it for those engaged in traditional clothes and souvenir production, or supplying of their traditional foods and drinks etc…
3- Emphasis on tourism education
One of the major components I think missing but critical in attracting more tourists to Ethiopia from across the world is language skills of tour guides and hotel hostesses. It is natural that we as a human being are happy whenever we hear people from other parts of the world speaking our language.
Speedily when we find someone speaking our language in an expected areas, we will be surprised and feel comfortable to have a friendly chat. When a tourist from China or Spain comes to visit Ethiopia, he she wants to learn about that area, the culture pf the people, the tradition and history. So that when they get back to their home, he or she can tell that story properly to their family members and friends.
This is critical and considered as word-of-mouth promotion technique. I don’t know about you but I personally trust the words of the people I know more that the advertising on social media or television.
So, for a tourist to understand the story of the areas he or she needs to understand the language of the tour guide and those working in hotels in Ethiopia.
Unfortunately, most of these tour guides and those who provide services in hotels speak one international language – English – though most are not that fluent.
Can you imagine what a Spanish / a French / an Arab / a Chinese / a Japanese / a Portuguese or an Italian can take home or tell his/her friends after visiting Ethiopia?
For me the visit of Ethiopia for these people is more visual. They may only tell about what they have seen. They can’t tell or narrate about the rich cultures and the 3,000 years old ancient country – Ethiopia.
Hence, I suggest that the Ministry of Tourism or Ministry of Education have to make mandatory for students of tourism – those intend to be tour guides or serve in hotels and resorts – to master two international languages before graduation.
In addition to English language, tourism and hospitality students in Ethiopia have to take basic to intermediary level language of another international language such as, Arabic, Mandarin, Kiswahili, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, French, Italian etc.
By applying the above three secrets I suggested, I believe Ethiopia can boost its revenue from tourism within a short period of time.
4- Quality services with smile
Before concluding my article, one last tip can be of course is improving the quality of services and the smiles tourists coming to Ethiopia are getting at the moment.
Improving the services will definitely have a positive impact in boosting the earnings of the country as tourists are likely to extend their stay whenever they get world class services.
At least they don’t shorten their stay because of the dissatisfaction of the services they get from arriving at International Airport to all the way leaving the Airport after their visit.
Tourists love to see only smiling faces from service providers including from those passport control government agents working for the immigration authority of Ethiopia. I urge you all to smile whenever you services to a tourist.
In fact, it is advised for service providers to smile for all of their clients – be it tourist or local people. That is why they say, customers are always right. Have a nice weekend.