Most of the hotels in Addis Ababa and regional towns, which were out of business in the past six months due to COVID-19, are reopening their doors for business. With the exception of those serving as quarantine centers, most hotels were closed for renovation in the past several months.
Feteh Woldesenbet, President of the Ethiopian Hotels and Related Service Providers Employers’ Association, told The Reporter that the hotels are undertaking the required preparatory works to return to business with recommended health precautions.
According to Feteh, a health safety protocol prepared by Tourism Ethiopia and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in collaboration with the Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Association, the Ethiopian Tour Operators Association and Ethiopian Hotels and Related Service Providers Employers’ Association, has been endorsed and signed by stakeholders recently.
“Trainings on safety protocols are being organized. The trainings will be offered to hotels and tour operator employees, and they will be certified by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The hotels are returning to business by putting the required precautions in place,” Feteh said.
The restrictive measures taken by governments to curb the spread of COVID-19 globally brought the tourism sector to its knees. Hotels in Ethiopia had secured a subsidized bank loan to keep their employees on their pay rolls.
The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) disbursed 3.3 billion birr in loans through 18 commercial banks finance the ailing hotels with five percent interest. But as the five percent interest rate was payable to the NBE, the banks were not making money out of these transactions leading to a lack of interest from the banks to actively work on the initiative. According to Feteh, not all hotels have benefited from the scheme.
“Unless they start working, these businesses which employ large number of people and generate foreign currency, their survival would be in jeopardy,” Feteh said. According to him, since the State of Emergency has come to an end and Ethiopia as a country is under preparation to restart tourism, it is a high time to fully open the hotels.
Daniel Berhanu, general manager of the Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Association, told The Reporter that as the government is relaxing restrictions, hotels in Addis Ababa are preparing to welcome guests. Daniel said travellers with negative PCR test results can now walk out of the airport and lodge in any hotel they prefer.
Considering the global impacts of the COVID-19 and the necessary health safety precautions, hotels are preparing to receive guests. Daniel said the Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Association will organize trainings on health safety protocols for hotel employers and employees, and business entities have to be certified.
Currently, the Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Association in collaboration with the Chefs Association is organizing trainings for Chefs.
A study released by the Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Association last May indicated that hotels in Addis Ababa have been losing about USD 35 million in a month, due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The association has 130 member hotels.
Sileshi Girma, Tourism Ethiopia Director General told The Reporter that the private sector is proactively working with his organization on the preparation work. “Hotels, tour operators and Chefs are closely working with us on health safety protocols,” he said adding, “Since tourists spend up to 12 hours in their hotels, we are working on the precautionary measures that should be implemented at reception, in guestrooms and the kitchens. We are not talking about not only wearing masks, face shields, using sanitizers and maintaining social distancing, but the end-to-end service should be free from body contact.”
According to Sileshi, the health safety protocol ensures all the services catered to tourists at hotels, transport and tourist sites are safe and protected from exposure to COVID-19 infections. Tourism Ethiopia last week held a demonstration on the implementation of the health safety protocol in Harrar Ras Hotel. Hotel owners, tour operators and chefs attended the demonstration.
Previously, Tourism Ethiopia had organized a workshop on the implementation of the protocol for all regional states tourism bureaus in Adama town.
The Addis Ababa Hotel Owners Association, Ethiopian Tour Operators Association and the Ethiopian Chefs Association have been working with Tourism Ethiopia on the preparation of the health safety protocol.
Kumneger Teketel, CEO and Lead Consultant of OZZIE Business and Hospitality Group Consultancy, welcomes the reopening of the hotels. “There should be an evaluation system with strict and regular follow-ups, especially at tourist destinations. Using this opportunity, we should be able to institutionalize safety and security control systems at destinations. All stakeholders in the tourism industry should work towards building the confidence of the tourists’ community and get commendable reviews and feedbacks from visitors,” Kumneger said.