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Ethiopia to restart tourism
Sileshi Girma

Ethiopia to restart tourism

Ethiopia is making the necessary preconditions to reactivate the tourism sector which is hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though the country did not close its airports, tourist destinations have been closed as part of the ongoing effort to curb the spread of the virus. Hotels and tour operators have been severely affected by the travel restrictions. While hotels are accessing bank loans tour operators and guides are not receiving any financial assistance. This has a devastating impacts on tour operation companies. Local guides and their families are in dire situation.   

Tourism Ethiopia Director General Sileshi Girma told The Reporter that the country is preparing itself to open its doors for international tourists. Sileshi said Tourism Ethiopia has adopted the international travel protocol introduced by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) that promotes safe travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. The international safety standard help to minimise the risk of exposure to infection. The protocol promotes the wellbeing of tourists during travel starting from the airports all the way to tourist destinations.  

The board of Tourism Ethiopia chaired by former prime minister, Hailemariam Dessalegn, has endorsed a safe travel protocol crafted by Tourism Ethiopia. Tourism Ethiopia is working with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in mobilising reginal states, hotels and tour operators in putting in place all the necessary health safety instruments in tourist destinations.

The travel safety protocol outlines the safety measures that should be put in place at airport terminals, airport shuttles, hotels and tourist attractions. It points out the sanitization facilities that need to be in place at tourists sites. The protocol proposes that tourist vehicles should operate with 50 percent of their seat capacity.

“We need to have disinfectant machines and washrooms at major tourist sites. We do not have washrooms in most of the tourist destinations including Lalibela and Gondar,” Sileshi said. “For instance Unity Park has clean washrooms but we do not have such washrooms in the regions. We have to build washrooms in tourist attractions,” Sileshi said.

Tourism Ethiopia has started disinfecting some tourist sites. “We have disinfected tourist sites in Harar, Tiya and the National Museum in Addis Ababa,” Sileshi said. He said tour operators should have boxes of masks, hand gloves and sanitizers in their vehicles. Event organizers are also advised to take all the necessary precaution measures to ensure safety.

 This week Tourism Ethiopia held a constative meeting with regional states officials in Adama town. Officials of Tourism Ethiopia advised regional authorities to build washrooms at tourist attractions. “Tourism Ethiopia alone cannot build washrooms and disinfectant machines in all the tourist attractions. Regional states and other stakeholders should cooperate and build washrooms and deploy disinfectant machines. If they cannot build washrooms in a short period of time they need to have mobile washrooms,” Sileshi said.

According to Sileshi, Tourism Ethiopia will build a model site at Harrar. The model site will have washrooms and disinfectant machine. “We need to have mobile washrooms in all the tourist attractions in the regional states,” he added. Tourism Ethiopia hopes to secure the approval of WTTC on the travel protocols.   

Tourism Ethiopia plans to open the domestic tourism first. “We have to open the national museum and parks such as the Unity Park where many people visit every day,” Sileshi said.

Andnet Feleke, board chair of the Ethiopian Tour Operators Association, told The Reporter that the association which has more than 250 members worked with the Tourism Ethiopia in preparing the travel protocol. Andent said the tour operators are ready to attract tourists once the government officially announced the reopening of the sector. “Beyond producing the document we have to implement the guidelines and train all the stake holders involved in the implementation of the protocol. The demand is there. But as a nation we have do our homework in meeting the safety requirements,” Andnet said.    

Tourism Ethiopia has started working with Ethiopian Airlines in producing promotional videos that heralds the re start of the tourism sector. It will launch a strong media campaign calling on tourists to schedule their travel to Ethiopia. In collaboration with the Ethiopian embassies Tourism Ethiopia will disseminate the information about the restart of tourism in Ethiopia. “We will create awareness among our Ambassadors about the restart of tourism in a meeting to be held soon. We are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on that,” Sileshi said.

Tourism Ethiopia will soon announce the date when it reopens the tourism sector and starts receiving international tourists.