The tourism industry is planning to introduce eased restrictions if proposed changes to licensing rules take effect.
After being sidelined for years, a directive overhauling operator permits is back on the table – and could breathe new life into the sector by removing bureaucratic hurdles.
The directive was originally drafted three years ago under the former Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which has been rebranded as the Ministry of Tourism. However, the proposal had long gathered dust on shelves. It is now being re-examined with the aim of simplifying licensing and oversight for tour operators and tourism professionals.
Previously, one of the conditions for a company or tourism worker to obtain a license was acquiring a minibus or four-wheel drive vehicle capable of carrying five people that was no more than five years old. However, the proposed directive envisions eliminating this stipulation for professionals who can demonstrate at least five years’ experience in the industry.
If the individual applying for a license has a diploma or higher educational background related to the tourism sector and has at least five years of work experience, there will no longer be a requirement to own a tourist vehicle.
The directive also aims to waive the vehicle ownership mandate for individuals applying for a license who have a diploma or higher education in tourism and at least five years of work experience in the field.
However, there would still be alternative requirements. Applicants would need to provide an agreement with a certified vehicle rental service, along with proof of independent contractor status and not current employment. A letter of reference from a past employer verifying over five years of experience would also be part of the application.
Those with a background in related fields like social sciences, languages, archaeology, forestry or wildlife would need 10 years of demonstrated tourism industry experience to be exempt from owning a vehicle.
Veteran tour operators originally had to own five vehicles to get licensed, a hurdle only reduced a few years ago to requiring just one vehicle. This single-vehicle mandate remains the current policy for all new tour companies seeking permits.
One tour operator who received a license under the relaxed one-vehicle rule remembers the behind-the-scenes battle over the changes. As a member of the Talak Ethiopia Tour Operators Association, the tour operator recalled that veteran firms lobbied against easing restrictions, seeing it as a way to prevent new competition from entering the market.
“I’m sure several of the existing companies wouldn’t want this new policy of easing the requirements to be implemented. But this is the only way forward to have professionals in charge,” the operator told The Reporter.
The Ministry held various discussions with sector associations and solicited feedback on the proposed directive. However, implementation was delayed even longer.
In a new push to boost tourism, Ministry officials have signaled they are ready to re-engage stakeholders.
The Reporter made multiple requests to Ministry representatives for comment on the policy revisions, but officials did not provide any statements by publication time.
The draft directive proposes establishing a Tourism Professional Competency Council consisting of various stakeholders. Members would include Ministry of Tourism representatives, hotel and tourism training institutes, the Ministry of Education and its associated bodies, tourism industry associations, and experienced independent professionals.