Weekend Reading – BY ANDUALEM SISAY GESSESSE – Thanks to Ethiopian Airlines, which is the largest African air group in Africa, Ethiopia attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year. Although some of these international travelers pass through the capital Addis Ababa as transit passengers, a significant number of them come as business travelers and visit Ethiopia’s unique tourist destinations.
Ethiopia has dozens of tourist sites including World Heritage sites, archaeological and cultural attractions, although these resources are not yet generating enough revenue for the country. Compared to its enormous tourism potential, Ethiopia does not earn enough.
The biggest revenue generated by the tourism sector in Ethiopia is about 3.55 billion dollars in one year, from some 812,000 visitors before the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2019. Of course, by compared to neighboring Kenya, which generated about 1.5 billion from the sector during the same period. year, Ethiopia’s performance is encouraging.
But I think increasing Ethiopia’s current revenue by five or even ten times from the sector won’t require very complicated measures.
Just get off the beaten track. Some tricks are not new. They are exercised in other parts of the world.
I believe that by implementing some of the following secrets, Ethiopia can at least triple the current revenue from its untapped tourist attractions.
Social Media Influencers
Ethiopia can increase 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 global and domestic audiences.
But such promotion should be creative and not business as usual. In the age of social media, a country does not need to invest millions of dollars to advertise on an international TV channel like CNN to attract international tourists.
Ethiopia and any country can easily advertise their tourist sites by working with individuals who run groups with millions of followers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
Official statistics show that Instagram currently has over a 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 Ethiopian population. This means that every Instagram post from 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 unique world heritages inscribed in the UNESCO. in Ethiopia.
The cost is insignificant for Ethiopian Airlines if it offers free round trip business class to some of these celebrities.
Likewise, it will not cost much for the Ministry of Tourism and its partners to cover all domestic travel and hotel expenses for these celebrities.
Rest assured that they will post at least one line with some photos to their millions of followers.
I think this is one of the most effective promotion techniques of the 21st century that can lead to an increase in the number of international tourists coming to Ethiopia in the long term.
Presumably some of these global icons and influencers may be worried about security in Ethiopia and reluctant to accept the invitation.
But the Minister of Tourism can assure that 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, are among the safest places where heads of state from 55 African countries meet every year.
2- Specialized cultural festivals
Ethiopia has about 80 ethnic groups and tribes with unique cultural and social events at least once a year. Most of these tribes are known for their healthy, unique and organic foods. While others celebrate their own New Year’s Eve party.
The ministry of tourism can easily collaborate with each tribe or region of Ethiopia and organize a special even at any corner of Ethiopia like Sidama / Gamo / Borena / Argoba / Harari / Konso / Dawro / Shekicho Cultural Week / etc.
In addition, of course, a coffee test day at a coffee farm can also be organized in different regions of Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, which grows the best varieties of coffee in the world.
— Ethiopia Tourism (@ethio_tourism) August 17, 2018
During these targeted tourism events, international tourists and Ethiopians in the Diaspora, as well as those in Ethiopia can enjoy cultural foods, drinks, music and safe visit to the open market, mountain trekking, of fishing and the region with professional guides who brief on the history of the people, the culture, the investment attractions of each region, etc.
This means that in Ethiopia there are well-organized tour packages for tourists at any week of the year. In fact, there could be different events of this nature in different parts of Ethiopia during the same week.
The Ministry of Tourism and Ethiopia Regions and Zones can plan these events properly and share the schedule of these events on social media platforms.
So people in Ethiopia or international travelers and tour guide companies will be aware of these happenings. Such festival schedules will allow people to plan their free time in advance.
Furthermore, it will also enable some of the less developed areas to attract hospitality investment such as construction of lodges, hotels, etc.
These special weekly events can certainly attract many people from all over the world, Ethiopians in the Diaspora, and encourage people from cities like Addis Ababa to attend with their families.
Ultimately, there is no doubt that such occurrences will certainly lead to an increase in Ethiopia’s current revenue from the tourism sector. Of course, this is in addition to 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 inhabitants of these areas, whether for those engaged in the production of traditional clothing and souvenirs, or the supply of their traditional foods and drinks, etc.
3- Emphasis on tourism education
One of the main things that I think is missing, but essential to attract more tourists to Ethiopia from all over the world, is the language skills of tour guides and hotel hostesses. It is natural that as human beings we are happy whenever we hear people from other parts of the world speaking our language.
Quickly, when we find someone who speaks our language in an expected area, we will be surprised and feel comfortable having a friendly conversation. When a tourist from China or Spain comes to visit Ethiopia, he wants to know more about this region, the culture of the people, the tradition and the history. That way, when they return home, he or she can properly tell this story to family members and friends.
This is essential and considered a word of mouth promotion technique. I don’t know about you but personally I trust the words of people I know more than advertising on social networks or on television.
So, for a tourist to understand the history of the regions, he must understand the language of the tour guide and those who work in the hotels in Ethiopia.
Unfortunately, most of these tour guides and those providing services in hotels speak an international language – English – although most are not fluent in it.
Can you imagine what a Spaniard/French/Arab/Chinese/Japanese/Portuguese or Italian can take home or tell their friends after visiting Ethiopia?
For me the visit of Ethiopia for these people is more visual. They can only tell what they have seen. They cannot tell or tell the rich cultures and the 3000 years old ancient country – Ethiopia.
Therefore, I suggest that the Ministry of Tourism or the Ministry of Education should make it compulsory for tourism students – those who intend to be tour guides or serve in hotels and resorts – to master two international languages before graduation.
In addition to the English language, tourism and hospitality students in Ethiopia must learn an elementary to intermediate level language of another international language such as Arabic, Mandarin, Kiswahili, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, French, Italian, etc.
By applying the above three secrets that I suggested, I believe Ethiopia can increase its tourism revenue in a short time.
4- Quality services with a smile
Before concluding my article, one last piece of advice can of course be to improve the quality of services and the smiles that tourists coming to Ethiopia are getting at this time.
Improved services will certainly have a positive impact on increasing the country’s income, as tourists are likely to extend their stay whenever they enjoy world-class services.
At least they don’t shorten their stay due to dissatisfaction with the services they get from their arrival at the international airport to their departure from the airport after their visit.
Tourists love to see nothing but smiling faces from service providers, including those government passport control officers working for the Ethiopian immigration authority. I urge you all to smile whenever you do a favor for a tourist.
Indeed, service providers are advised to smile for all their customers, whether they are tourists or locals. This is why it is said that customers are always right. Have a nice week end.