Official Launch of the Ethiopian Tourism Organisation - Remarks by UNDP Resident Representative Eugene Owusu
Your Excellency, Kebur Teklay Minister, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn,
Your Excellency, Ki-buur Ato Amin Abdulkadir, Minister of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism,
Ato Solomon Tadesse, Chief Executive officer of the Ethiopian Tourism Organization
Ato Tewolde Gebremariam, Chairman of the Board of the Ethiopian Tourism Council, and Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines
Kefitegna- Yemengist Bale-Siltan
Development Partners and the UN Family,
Members of the Private Sector,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Keburat ena Keburan,
Today we are here to celebrate a strategic partnership that goes beyond traditional mind-set and silos to spearhead Ethiopia’s tourism ambition.
On behalf of UNDP, let me say what a great pleasure it is for me to join all of you here today at the official launching of the Ethiopian Tourism Organisation.
If we reflect back to the history of Ethiopian tourism, what comes to my mind is the name of one of the world’s most historic female tourist – I’m referring here to Queen of Sheba who back in around BC 1000 packed her bags to go on a trip to visit King Solomon because she had heard stories that had made her curious enough to want to visit and see the king and his empire for herself.
It is the same kind of curiosity that lures tourists to other parts of the world which has led to a global industry worth six trillion dollars and generates 260 million jobs – 1 in every 11 jobs in the world.
It is this same kind of curiosity, which properly tapped into could lure millions of people to Ethiopia as tourists. Ethiopia has immense potential to boost its tourism sector. Ethiopia is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the highest number of sites in Africa, and few countries can match Ethiopia’s combination of rich history, unique culture and tourism endowment.
Ethiopia also boasts unspoilt landscapes, and distinctive wildlife, with 320 mammal species, 36 of these being endemic. With our beloved ancestor of Lucy – Dinkenesh, Ethiopia is famed as the origin of mankind. And Ethiopia is also a remarkable place for viewing diverse and colourful birdlife.
And yet Ethiopia’s potential and expectation has not yet translated into a thriving tourism industry and we are left to lament over the unfulfilled promise. Borrowing from the proverbial Ethiopian saying, this looks like the classic case of the child of the Nile is thirsty for water. Ye Abayin-Lej, Wuha-Temmaw.
It is my view that the current state by no means reflects a lack of commitment and policy direction. Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan clearly reflects this huge potential and sets ambitious targets for the tourism sector, including a doubling in tourism arrivals from about 500,000 currently to 1 million; and a twelve-fold increase in tourists’ expenditures, from US$250 million in 2010 to US$3 billion, by 2015.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
When approached in a sustainable manner, it is true that tourism may not be a silver bullet to transform a country but it can help a country do a number of things. It can help drive economic growth and alleviate poverty; it can help generate much needed resources for development; and it can provide the incentives to protect the natural heritage for future generations.
For Ethiopia to fully benefit from its vast tourism potential to support economic growth, to alleviate poverty and to protect the natural heritage, the country needs to prioritize and overcome some fundamental challenges. These include a shortage of trained manpower in the tourism and leisure sector, limited number world class hotels, and poor investments in national parks, which need to be overcome to make them the attractions they ought to be. Ethiopia also needs to be bolder in marketing itself as a tourism destination of note.
Overcoming these shortcomings calls for an integrated approach that brings together a coherent policy framework, effective and efficient institutions and an enabling environment that provides the space, incentives and infrastructure to support a proactive private sector invest more in tourism and related businesses.
The launch of the Ethiopian Tourism Transformation Council earlier this year demonstrates a commitment by Government to tackle head on some of these challenges, and to focus on the potential of tourism to boost economic growth, inclusive development, and environmental sustainability.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, Ethiopia takes another step forward to harness the potential of tourism. The Ethiopian Tourism Organisation, the secretariat and implementing entity of the Council that is being launched today is going to be central to designing strategies and innovative programmes towards realizing the vision of making Ethiopia a tourism hotspot in Africa.
At UNDP, our association with today’s launch builds on our continued support to transformative initiatives in Ethiopia. In recent years, UNDP has supported the conceptualisation and implementation of the Agricultural Transformation Agency and the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, amongst others. Learning from these experiences, and working together with the Government and other partners, UNDP is now a proud partner of the Ethiopian Tourism Organisation; this new institution that has now been established to spearhead innovation in the sector.
UNDP will support the Ethiopian Tourism Organization to build national planning and implementation capacities for tourism development. We will support activities that will improve tourism marketing and promote private and public investment to the sector.
Our support will also go towards strengthening the technical and policy advisory capacity of the Ethiopian Tourism Organization and help it to create, acquire, and to use proven knowledge and technologies in tourism development. And importantly, we will connect the Ethiopian Tourism Organization to knowledge, innovation and best practices in the industry.
All of these support areas are very much in line with UNDP’s vision to empower lives and build resilient nations. A large number of Ethiopians will be able to directly benefit from a vibrant tourism industry-- with the creation of more jobs. A large number of Ethiopians will be able to directly benefit from the investments which tourism will stimulate; by the expanded markets for good and services which tourism brings; and by the skills which will be developed to cater to a growing number of global visitors.
In addition, tourism will help Ethiopia earn significant foreign exchange and assist in diversifying the revenue base of the country to enhance prospects for achieving the goal of becoming middle income over the next decade.
Excellency, Distinguished Guests, Keburat ena Keburaan
Ethiopia Konjo Ha-ger N’at
But in this competitive day, when some tourists are thinking of booking a visit to outer space, the unique flora and fauna, and Ethiopia’s rich history will not automatically translate into guaranteed spot as a top tourism destination. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us but the strategic thinking behind the setup of the Tourism Transformation Council and the Ethiopian Tourism Organisation means that Ethiopia is heading in the right direction.
There is every reason for this beautiful country to become a top tourism destination. It is time to stand and deliver on Ethiopia’s tourism potential.
And as I throw this challenge to all partners - government, development partners, private sector, communities and civil society, let me also take this opportunity to stress that UNDP stands ready to play its part to help Ethiopia fully leverage its vast tourism potential to support the transformative agenda that this country has set itself.
Let’s all join hands to make this happen. Yes We Can – YiChalal