The violence, political corruption and poverty that plagued Ethiopia during the 20th century kept tourism from becoming a booming industry. In 1974, a military council known as the Derg held power in Ethiopia until 1987. During this reign, they oversaw the murder of hundreds of thousands of suspected dissenters in what is known as the Red Terror, and were also responsible for the 1984 famine that killed an estimated 1 million people.
In many ways, history has held Ethiopia back, but in 2013, the Ethiopian Tourism Organization (ETO) was established. The two main objectives of the ETO, according to their website, are “fostering destination and product development” and “marketing Ethiopia as a tourism destination”.
The ETO works alongside numerous organizations that impact Ethiopia’s infrastructure, most notably Ethiopian Airlines. The airline’s CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, serves as the Chairman of the Tourism Board.
The online publication allAfrica recently stated that Ethiopian Airlines made history when it acquired 14 Airbus A350 XWBs, the first of their kind to land in Africa. These state-of-the-art planes, along with the development of airports, have created new and improved routes of tourism into Ethiopia.
In addition to the latest aircraft, CNN reported that investments from countries such as China and India have helped lead to the construction of massive highways and rail systems that stretch across the country, and assisted with the lavish hotels being erected in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The expansion of tourism in Ethiopia has created thousands of jobs and boosted the country’s economy. An allAfrica report from January 2015 stated that Ethiopia’s International and Public Relations Director at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced the creation of 783,638 jobs in just four years.
In 2015, The East Africa Monitor declared that Ethiopia had earned $3.5 billion that year from tourism alone, with 910,000 people visiting the country. In the same year, the European Council on Tourism and Trade announced that Ethiopia was the best destination for tourism in the world. This honor is largely due to the popularity of Ethiopia’s nine UNESCO world heritage sites, including Simien National Park, the churches of Lalibela and the ancient city of Aksum.
As Ethiopia’s infrastructure improves, travellers will continue to visit the country, making it competitive among Africa’s top tourist nations and global destinations alike.
– Liam Travers