Expert urges to use AfCFTA for Ethiopia’s tourism growth

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An expert said that Ethiopia should exploit the potentials of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to maximize the benefits of its tourism sector.

Yonas Bekele, Expert at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s (UNECA) Private Sector Development and Finance Division, urged on Friday that Ethiopia take advantage of the opportunities created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to unlock the potential of its tourism sector.

A majority of African nations have agreed and ratified AfCFTA, with phase two of the Agreement negotiations having begun. For such a single continental market to happen there needs to be better trade governance and large-scale investments in infrastructural development and regional value chains in key industries.

The expected free movement of people is also one of the merits of the continental integration agenda, which would clear the field for tourism’s growth and, consequently, boost intra-African tourism and industrialisation.

The financial sector, trade, transport, technology, and tourism are among the sectors that have been given a priority in AfCFTA.

“AfCFTA will have opportunities to unlock the potential of Ethiopia’s tourism,” Yonas said during a panel discussion held at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel organized by the Oromia Tourism Commission (OTC) as part of the “Tourism and Technology Week”.

“We’ve to exploit the opportunities of AfCFTA as full implementation of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment, will certainly bolster intra-Africa travel and could additional boost investments,” he argues.

“There’s a 53% increase in the need for aircraft fleets that our companies like Ethiopian Airlines could take advantage of if the AfCFTA is fully implemented,” said Yonas, making the economic implications and developmental case for facilitating intra-Africa tourism. He, however, said that reaping the full benefits of the AfCFTA requires integrated planning of the priority sectors of tourism, ICT, financial services, and transport, including the implementation of the flagship regional projects and agreements such as the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), Trans-African Highway (TAH), African Strategic Tourism Framework for 2019–2028, and PIDA priority action plan. This will provide the continent with a much-needed stimulus and drive the region’s long-term recovery and growth, as well as realize the Agenda 2063 tourism targets.

Various institution heads on their side called on a synergy among institutions to unlock Ethiopia’s tourism potential.

Mesfin Tassew, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group, was also among the panelists. He called for a synergy among institutions to boost the benefits which would be generated from tourism.

Mesfin presented the successes of Ethiopian to promote tourism. Ethiopian Airlines constructed 22 local Airports.

Promotion of tourism through social media’s and web adverts, in flight service movie adverts depicting tourist attraction destinations, establishment of Ethiopian Holidays, a company focused on promotion of tourism across Africa are the initiatives being executed by Ethiopian.

Mesfin however raised lack of security across Nekemt and Dembi Dolo Airports has been spoiled efforts to schedule flights there from Bole Airport.

Mussa Sheiko, Deputy Head of Oromia Communication took the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as an example to show how collaborative efforts by Ethiopians can result in great outcomes and called for similar collaboration to grow tourism into a successful sector by developing high-value brands following in the footsteps of Visit Oromia, a brand created by Oromia Tourism Commission.

Events ushered in by the Coronavirus pandemic in December 2019 have changed the world significantly for better or worse. The outbreak decimated economies, buried industries, and left a crisis the magnitude of which the world has only known in world wars in its wake.

One of the hardest hit businesses over past three years of the pandemic has been travel and tourism. As countries put up travel restrictions visitors number dwindled, and some of the most popular destinations in the world saw almost zero visitors for many months on end.

Ethiopia was not spared in the scourge of the pandemic and as visitors stopped coming, the tourism, travel, and hospitality sectors were severely affected. The problems didn’t stop with the pandemic though. Security issues and conflicts broke out in subsequent years further crippled Ethiopia’s tourism sector.

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